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ABSTRACT: The serpinopathies result from point mutations in members of the serine protease inhibitor or serpin superfamily. They are characterized by the formation of ordered polymers that are retained within the cell of synthesis. This causes disease by a "toxic gain of function" from the accumulated protein and a "loss of function" as a result of the deficiency of inhibitors that control important proteolytic cascades. The serpinopathies are exemplified by the Z (Glu342Lys) mutant of α₁-antitrypsin that results in the retention of ordered polymers within the endoplasmic reticulum of hepatocytes. These polymers form the intracellular inclusions that are associated with neonatal hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. A second example results from mutations in the neurone-specific serpin-neuroserpin to form ordered polymers that are retained as inclusions within subcortical neurones as Collins' bodies. These inclusions underlie the autosomal dominant dementia familial encephalopathy with neuroserpin inclusion bodies or FENIB. There are different pathways to polymer formation in vitro but not all form polymers that are relevant in vivo. It is therefore essential that protein-based structural studies are interpreted in the context of human samples and cell and animal models of disease. We describe here the biochemical techniques, monoclonal antibodies, cell biology, animal models, and stem cell technology that are useful to characterize the serpin polymers that form in vivo.
Methods in enzymology 01/2011; 501:421-66. · 1.90 Impact Factor