Allosteric Partial Inhibition of Monomeric Proteases. Sulfated Coumarins Induce Regulation, not just Inhibition, of Thrombin

Verespy S 3rd, Mehta AY, Afosah D, Al-Horani RA, Desai UR. Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 7;6:24043. doi: 10.1038/srep24043. PMID: 27053426

Allosteric partial inhibition of soluble, monomeric proteases can offer major regulatory advantages, but remains a concept on paper to date; although it has been routinely documented for receptors and oligomeric proteins. Thrombin, a key protease of the coagulation cascade, displays significant conformational plasticity, which presents an attractive opportunity to discover small molecule probes that induce sub-maximal allosteric inhibition. We synthesized a focused library of some 36 sulfated coumarins to discover two agents that display sub-maximal efficacy (~50%), high potency (<500 nM) and high selectivity for thrombin (>150-fold). Michaelis-Menten, competitive inhibition, and site-directed mutagenesis studies identified exosite 2 as the site of binding for the most potent sulfated coumarin. Stern-Volmer quenching of active site-labeled fluorophore suggested that the allosteric regulators induce intermediate structural changes in the active site as compared to those that display ~80-100% efficacy. Antithrombin inactivation of thrombin was impaired in the presence of the sulfated coumarins suggesting that allosteric partial inhibition arises from catalytic dysfunction of the active site. Overall, sulfated coumarins represent first-in-class, sub-maximal inhibitors of thrombin. The probes establish the concept of allosteric partial inhibition of soluble, monomeric proteins. This concept may lead to a new class of anticoagulants that are completely devoid of bleeding.