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The continuing discovery and development of beta-lactams as antibiotics has had an unparalleled impact on the overall health and well-being of society. Recently, appropriately substituted cephalosporins were shown to be potent inhibitors of elastase, suggesting a novel therapeutic role for the beta-lactams in the control of emphysema and other degenerative diseases. We have now solved and partially refined at atomic resolution the structure of a complex of porcine pancreatic elastase with the time-dependent irreversible inhibitor 3-acetoxymethyl-7-alpha-chloro-3-cephem-4-carboxylate-1,1-dioxide tert-butyl ester (I), the most potent of the beta-lactam elastase inhibitors yet reported. (Porcine pancreatic elastase is a close relative of the desired drug target, human polymorphonuclear leukocyte elastase.) A mechanism of action is presented, based on the structure and on biochemical evidence (T.-Y.L. et al., in preparation), which clarifies the operational similarities and differences between beta-lactam elastase inhibitors and antibiotics. Features of the reaction include the expulsion of a leaving group at the cephalosporin 3' position and the formation of two covalent bonds with the active site of porcine pancreatic elastase at residues Ser 195 and His 57.


M A Navia, J P Springer, T Y Lin, H R Williams, R A Firestone, J M Pisano, J B Doherty, P E Finke, K Hoogsteen. Crystallographic study of a beta-lactam inhibitor complex with elastase at 1.84 A resolution. Nature. 1987 May 7-13;327(6117):79-82

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PMID: 3646481

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