Domínguez, J.L., Christopeit, T., Villaverde, M.C., Gossas, T., Otero, J.M., Nyström, S., Baraznenok, V., Lindström, E., Danielson, U.H., Sussman, F. (2010) Biochemistry 49:7255–7263.
BACE-1 is one of the aspartic proteases involved in the cleavage of beta amyloid peptide, an initial step in the formation of amyloid plaques whose toxicity induces neuron death in Alzheimer’s disease patients. One of the central issues in the search of novel BACE-1 inhibitors is the optimum pH for the binding of inhibitors to the enzyme. It is known that the enzyme has optimal catalytic activity at acidic pH, while cell active inhibitors may bind optimally at higher pH. In this work we determine the effect of the pH on the affinities of a set of inhibitors, with a variety of chemical motifs, for the ectodomain region of BACE-1 by a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor based assay. In order to understand the molecular interactions that underlie the diverse optimum pH for the binding of the various inhibitors as observed experimentally, we have calculated the titration curves for a set of BACE-1 ligand complexes. The results indicate that the pK(a) values of the titratable residues of the protein depend on the nature of the ligand involved, in disagreement with previous work. The enzyme-inhibitor structures with the resulting protonation states at pH values 4.5 and 7.4 served as the starting point for the prediction of the pH-dependent binding ranking. Our calculations reproduced the entire affinity ranking observed upon pH increase and most of the binding trends among inhibitors, especially at low pH. Finally, our cell-based assays indicate a possible correlation between high inhibitor affinity at both acidic and neutral pH values, with optimal cell response, a result that may open new venues for the search of potent BACE-1 inhibitors that are active at the cellular level.
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