Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor

Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor

Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) is a highly cationic single-chain protein with eight intramolecular disulfide bonds. It is found in large quantities in bronchial, cervical, and nasal mucosa, saliva, and seminal fluids. SLPI inhibits human leukocyte elastase, human cathepsin G, human trypsin, neutrophil elastase, and mast cell chymase. X-ray crystallography has shown that SLPI has two homologous domains of 53 and 54 amino acids, one of which exhibits anti-protease activity (C-terminal domain). The other domain (N-terminal domain) is not known to have any function.

Role in diseases

The gene for SLPI is expressed by cells at many mucosal surfaces located in the tissues of the lungs, cervix, seminal vesicles, and parotid ducts. SLPI is also one of the dominantly present proteins in nasal epithelial lining fluid and other nasal secretions. Many diseases, such as emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, are characterized by increased levels of neutrophil elastase. SLPI is one of the major defenses against the destruction of pulmonary tissues and epithelial tissues by neutrophil elastase. SLPI is considered to be the predominant elastase inhibitor in secretions, while α1-antitrypsin is the predominant elastase inhibitor in tissues. Several diseases, including those listed, are actually the result of SLPI and α1-antitrypsin defenses being overwhelmed by neutrophil elastase. It has been suggested that recombinant human SLPI be administered to treat symptoms of cystic fibrosis, genetic emphysema, and asthma. In addition, SLPI has occasionally been monitored in an effort to coordinate its levels with different pathological conditions. Increased levels of SLPI in nasal secretions and bronchoalveolar fluids may be denotive of inflammatory lung conditions or allergic reactions, and increased levels of SLPI in plasma may be indicative of pneumonia.

Increased levels of SLPI in saliva and plasma may also be an indicator of HIV infection. This is evident due to the virtual nonexistence of HIV transmission through oral-to-oral contact. This antiviral activity is due to the interference of SLPI in events that are mediated by protease, such as entry into the host cell and replication of viral genetic material. What makes SLPI such a topic of interest is that it exhibits anti-HIV properties in physiological conditions, rather than artificial ones. This fact suggests that the human body is trying to develop its own defenses against HIV.


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