Antimicrobial peptide LL-37 is both a substrate of Cathepsins S and K and a selective inhibitor of Cathepsin L

P.M. Andrault, S.A. Samsonov, G. Weber, L. Coquet, K. Nazmi, J.G.M. Bolscher, A.C. Lalmanach, T. Jouenne, D. Brömme, M.T. Pisabarro, G. Lalmanach, F. Lecaille

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Lung cysteine cathepsins B, K, L, and S contribute to physiological and pathological processes including degradation of antimicrobial peptides/proteins (AMPs) such as surfactant protein SP-A, lactoferrin, secretory leukocyte peptidase inhibitor, and beta-defensins-2 and -3. Substantial amounts of uncleaved LL-37, a 37-mer cationic AMP, were observed in the sputum of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Nevertheless LL-37 was degraded after prolonged incubation in CF sputum, and the hydrolysis was blocked by E-64, a selective inhibitor of cysteine proteases. Cathepsins K and S, expressed in human alveolar macrophages, thoroughly hydrolyzed LL-37 in vitro, whereas it competitively inhibited cathepsin L (Ki = 150 nM). Cleavage of LL-37 by cathepsins S and K impaired its antimicrobial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. The exchange of residues 67 and 205 in the S2 pockets of cathepsins L (Leu67Tyr/Ala205Leu) and K (Tyr67Leu/Leu205Ala) switched the specificity of these mutants toward LL-37. Molecular modeling suggested that LL-37 interacted with the active site of cathepsin L in both forward (i.e., substrate-like) and reverse orientations with similar binding energies. Our data support the hypothesis that cysteine cathepsins modulate the innate immunity response by degrading distinct and representative members of the AMP family.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2785-2798
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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