Manipulating substrate and pH in zymography protocols selectively distinguishes cathepsins K, L, S, and V activity in cells and tissues

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, 30332, USA.
Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (Impact Factor: 3.04). 12/2011; 516(1):52-7. DOI: 10.1016/
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cathepsins K, L, S, and V are cysteine proteases that have been implicated in tissue-destructive diseases such as atherosclerosis, tumor metastasis, and osteoporosis. Among these four cathepsins are the most powerful human collagenases and elastases, and they share 60% sequence homology. Proper quantification of mature, active cathepsins has been confounded by inhibitor and reporter substrate cross-reactivity, but is necessary to develop properly dosed therapeutic applications. Here, we detail a method of multiplex cathepsin zymography to detect and distinguish the activity of mature cathepsins K, L, S, and V by exploiting differences in individual cathepsin substrate preferences, pH effects, and electrophoretic mobility under non-reducing conditions. Specific identification of cathepsins K, L, S, and V in one cell/tissue extract was obtained with cathepsin K (37 kDa), V (35 kDa), S (25 kDa), and L (20 kDa) under non-reducing conditions. Cathepsin K activity disappeared and V remained when incubated at pH 4 instead of 6. Application of this antibody free, species independent, and medium-throughput method was demonstrated with primary human monocyte-derived macrophages and osteoclasts, endothelial cells stimulated with inflammatory cytokines, and normal and cancer lung tissues, which identified elevated cathepsin V in lung cancer.

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