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Engineering the proteolytic specificity of activated protein C improves its pharmacological properties

The National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology


Human activated protein C (APC) is an antithrombotic, antiinflammatory serine protease that plays a central role in vascular homeostasis, and activated recombinant protein C, drotrecogin alfa (activated), has been shown to reduce mortality in patients with severe sepsis. Similar to other serine proteases, functional APC levels are regulated by the serine protease inhibitor family of proteins including α1-antitrypsin and protein C inhibitor. Using APC–substrate modeling, we designed and produced a number of derivatives with the goal of altering the proteolytic specificity of APC such that the variants exhibited resistance to inactivation by protein C inhibitor and α1-antitrypsin yet maintained their primary anticoagulant activity. Substitutions at Leu-194 were of particular interest, because they exhibited 4- to 6-fold reductions in the rate of inactivation in human plasma and substantially increased pharmacokinetic profiles compared with wild-type APC. This was achieved with minimal impairment of the anticoagulant/antithrombotic activity of APC. These data demonstrate the ability to selectively modulate substrate specificity and subsequently affect in vivo performance and suggest therapeutic opportunities for the use of protein C derivatives in disease states with elevated serine protease inhibitor levels.

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