Mannan-binding lectin (MBL), ficolins and collectin-11 are known to associate with three homologous modular proteases, the MBL-Associated Serine Proteases (MASPs). The crystal structures of the catalytic domains of MASP-1 and MASP-2 have been solved, but the structure of the corresponding domain of MASP-3 remains unknown. A link between mutations in the MASP1/3 gene and the rare autosomal recessive 3MC (Mingarelli, Malpuech, Michels and Carnevale,) syndrome, characterized by various developmental disorders, was discovered recently, revealing an unexpected important role of MASP-3 in early developmental processes. To gain a first insight into the enzymatic and structural properties of MASP-3, a recombinant form of its serine protease (SP) domain was produced and characterized. The amidolytic activity of this domain on fluorescent peptidyl-aminomethylcoumarin substrates was shown to be considerably lower than that of other members of the C1r/C1s/MASP family. The E. coli protease inhibitor ecotin bound to the SP domains of MASP-3 and MASP-2, whereas no significant interaction was detected with MASP-1, C1r and C1s. A tetrameric complex comprising an ecotin dimer and two MASP-3 SP domains was isolated and its crystal structure was solved and refined to 3.2 Å. Analysis of the ecotin/MASP-3 interfaces allows a better understanding of the differential reactivity of the C1r/C1s/MASP protease family members towards ecotin, and comparison of the MASP-3 SP domain structure with those of other trypsin-like proteases yields novel hypotheses accounting for its zymogen-like properties in vitro.
This article was published online in PLoS One and is free to access.