The minimal structure in the heat-stable inhibitor protein of cAMP-dependent protein kinase required for a low nanomolar potency of inhibition is the peptide Thr6-Tyr-Ala-Asp-Phe-Ile-Ala-Ser-Gly-Arg-Thr-Gly-Arg-Arg-Asn-Ala-+ ++Ile22-NH2 (PKI-(6-22)-amide). While primary structural determinants for interaction with the protein kinase are distributed throughout the 17 residues of this peptide, we have previously shown that phenylalanine 10 in the NH2-terminal portion is a particularly important determinant for high affinity binding (Glass, D. B., Cheng, H.-C., Mende-Mueller, L., Reed, J., and Walsh, D. A. (1989) J. Biol. Chem. 264, 8802-8810). To investigate this requirement further, peptide analogs of PKI-(6-22)-amide in which various natural and nonstandard amino acids are substituted for phenylalanine 10 have been synthesized and tested for inhibitory potency against the catalytic subunit of the protein kinase. Consistent with the importance of the hydrophobicity of phenylalanine, an alanine 10 substitution analog exhibited a 270-fold decrease in inhibitory potency, whereas the leucine 10 analog lost only 33-fold in activity as compared to the parent peptide PKI-(6-22)-amide. Peptides containing the spatial conformation analogs D-phenylalanine, homophenylalanine, or phenylglycine were 60-120-fold less potent than the parent peptide. Peptides containing various para-substituted phenylalanines at position 10 were only 5-11-fold less potent. One exception to this was (4'-azidophenylalanine 10)PKI-(6-22)-amide, which was nearly equipotent with the parent inhibitor. The most potent analogs were those peptides containing highly aromatic residues at position 10. The 2'-thienylalanine 10, tryptophan (formyl) 10, tryptophan 10, and the 1'-naphthylalanine 10 analogs were 3-fold less potent, equipotent, slightly more potent, and 4-fold more potent than the parent peptide inhibitor, respectively. We conclude that phenylalanine 10 in PKI-(6-22)-amide, and presumably in the native protein inhibitor, interacts through specific hydrophobic and/or aromatic binding to a hydrophobic pocket or cleft near the active site of the protein kinase.
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