Detection of proteolytic activity by fluorescent zymogram in-gel assays.Biotechniques. 2000 Jun; 28(6):1166-8, 1170, 1172-3.B
Proteases are involved in the regulation of many biological functions. This study describes a novel method for detecting protease activity by fluorescent zymogram in-gel protease assays, using SDS polyacrylamide gels copolymerized with a peptide-MCA (4-methyl-coumaryl-7-amide) substrate. This method allows simultaneous determination of protease cleavage specificity and molecular weight. Trypsin was electrophoresed in SDS polyacrylamide gels copolymerized with Boc-Gln-Ala-Arg-MCA, the gel was then incubated in assay buffer, and trypsin cleavage of the peptide-MCA substrate generated fluorescent AMC (7-amino-4-methyl-coumarin), which was subsequently detected under UV transillumination. Chymotrypsin activity was detected in gels copolymerized with Suc-Ala-Ala-Pro-Phe-MCA substrate. Selective detection of these proteases was demonstrated by the absence of trypsin activity in gels containing the chymotrypsin substrate, and the lack of chymotrypsin activity in gels containing the trypsin substrate. Detection of proteolytic activity from secretory vesicles of adrenal medulla (chromaffin granules) was observed with the trypsin substrate, Z-Phe-Arg-MCA, but not with the chymotrypsin substrate. Overall, this sensitive fluorescent zymogram in-gel protease assay method can be used for rapid determination of protease cleavage specificity and enzyme molecular weight in biological samples. This assay should be useful for many research disciplines investigating the role of the many proteases that control cellular functions.