Mechanism of action of inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor.
Inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor (I alpha I) is a unique proteinase inhibitor that can be proteolyzed by the same enzymes that are inhibited, to generate smaller inhibitors. This study examines the reactions of I alpha I with trypsin, chymotrypsin, plasmin, and leukocyte elastase. Complexes of I alpha I and proteinase were demonstrated by gel filtration chromatography. Complete digestion of I alpha I by each proteinase was not accompanied by a comparable loss of inhibition of that enzyme or a different enzyme. Following proteolysis, inhibitory activity was identified in I alpha I fragments of molecular weight 50,000-100,000 and less than 40,000. Addition of a second proteinase inhibitor prevented proteolysis. Both I alpha I and its complex with proteinase were susceptible to degradation. Kinetic parameters for both the inhibition and proteolysis reactions of I alpha I with four proteinases were measured under physiological conditions. On the basis of these results, a model for the mechanism of action of I alpha I is proposed: Proteinase can react with either of two independent sites on I alpha I to form an inhibitory complex or a complex that leads to proteolysis. Both reactions occur simultaneously, but the inhibitory capacity of I alpha I is not significantly affected by proteolysis since the product of proteolysis is also an inhibitor. For a given proteinase, the inhibition equilibrium constant and the Michaelis constant for proteolysis describe the relative stability of the inhibition and proteolysis complexes; the second-order rate constants for inhibition and proteolysis indicate the likelihood of either reaction. The incidence of inhibition or proteolysis reactions involving I alpha I in vivo cannot be assessed without knowledge of the exact concentrations of inhibitor and proteinases; however, analysis of inhibition rate constants suggests that I alpha I might be involved in plasmin inhibition.
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