The inhibition mechanism of human 20S proteasomes enables next-generation inhibitor design

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Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 594-598
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8993

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Insights into proteasome inhibition

Proteasomes are large protein complexes that degrade and remove proteins to maintain proper cellular physiology and growth. Proteasomes are a validated target for anticancer therapy, but drug design has been hampered by poor understanding of how inhibitors interact with the active site. Schrader et al. succeeded in crystallizing various proteasome-inhibitor complexes. They subsequently obtained crystal structures for the native human proteasome and eight different inhibitor complexes at resolutions between 1.9 and 2.1 Å. The inhibitors sampled include drugs that are approved or in trial for cancer treatment.

Science, this issue p. 594


The proteasome is a validated target for anticancer therapy, and proteasome inhibition is employed in the clinic for the treatment of tumors and hematological malignancies. Here, we describe crystal structures of the native human 20S proteasome and its complexes with inhibitors, which either are drugs approved for cancer treatment or are in clinical trials. The structure of the native human 20S proteasome was determined at an unprecedented resolution of 1.8 angstroms. Additionally, six inhibitor-proteasome complex structures were elucidated at resolutions between 1.9 and 2.1 angstroms. Collectively, the high-resolution structures provide new insights into the catalytic mechanisms of inhibition and necessitate a revised description of the proteasome active site. Knowledge about inhibition mechanisms provides insights into peptide hydrolysis and can guide strategies for the development of next-generation proteasome-based cancer therapeutics.

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