In an attempt to explore how specific features of the substrate's primary structure may affect the activity of rabbit muscle acylaminoacyl-peptide hydrolase (EC 18.104.22.168), a number of acetylated peptides containing specific amino acid replacements in specific positions were prepared and compared as substrates for the hydrolase. The principal variants were D-Ala, Pro, and positive charges (His, Arg, Lys); in addition, the effect of the length of the peptide was also investigated in a less systematic manner. The substrates were either prepared by direct acetylation of peptides, by extension of the N-terminus with acetylamino acids or acetylpeptides, activated as N-hydroxysuccinimide esters, or by isolation of the N-terminal peptides from naturally occurring acetylated proteins. It was found that D-Ala on either side of the bond to be cleaved (positions 1 and 2) completely inhibited the enzymatic activity, whereas acetylated peptides with D-Ala in positions 3 or 4 were as good substrates as those containing L-Ala. Peptides with Pro in positions 2 were also inactive, and most of the peptides with Pro in the third position were very poor substrates; only the peptide Ac-AAP gave reasonably high activity (30% of Ac-AAA), which was reduced to 1-2% if additional residues were present at the C-terminus (Ac-AAPA, Ac-AAPAA). The presence of a positive charge in positions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 gave strong reduction in hydrolase activity varying with the charge's distance from the N-terminus from 0 to 15-20% of the rates obtained with the reference peptides without positive charges.
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