Heparin blocks the inhibition of tissue kallikrein 1 by kallistatin through electrostatic repulsion

Lina Ma, Jiawei Wu, Ying Zheng*, Zimei Shu, Zhenquan Wei, Yinbiao Sun, Robin W. Carrell, Aiwu Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Kallistatin, also known as SERPINA4, has been implicated in the regulation of blood pressure and angiogenesis, due to its specific inhibition of tissue kallikrein 1 (KLK1) and/or by its heparin binding ability. The binding of heparin on kallistatin has been shown to block the inhibition of KLK1 by kallistatin but the detailed molecular mechanism underlying this blockade is unclear. Here we solved the crystal structures of human kallistatin and its complex with heparin at 1.9 and 1.8 Å resolution, respectively. The structures show that kallistatin has a conserved serpin fold and undergoes typical stressed-to-relaxed conformational changes upon reactive loop cleavage. Structural analysis and mutagenesis studies show that the heparin binding site of kallistatin is located on a surface with positive electrostatic potential near a unique protruded 310 helix between helix H and strand 2 of β-sheet C. Heparin binding on this site would prevent KLK1 from docking onto kallistatin due to the electrostatic repulsion between heparin and the negatively charged surface of KLK1, thus blocking the inhibition of KLK1 by kallistatin. Replacement of the acidic exosite 1 residues of KLK1 with basic amino acids as in thrombin resulted in accelerated inhibition. Taken together, these data indicate that heparin controls the specificity of kallistatin, such that kinin generation by KLK1 within the microcirculation will be locally protected by the binding of kallistatin to the heparin-like glycosaminoglycans of the endothelium.

Original languageEnglish
Article number828
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Electrostatic repulsion
  • Heparin
  • Serine protease
  • Serpins
  • Tissue kallikrein


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