Mosquito-Derived Anophelin Sulfoproteins Are Potent Antithrombotics

The anophelins are small protein thrombin inhibitors that are produced in the salivary glands of the Anopheles mosquito to fulfill a vital role in blood feeding. A bioinformatic analysis of anophelin sequences revealed the presence of conserved tyrosine residues in an acidic environment that were predicted to be post-translationally sulfated in vivo. To test this prediction, insect cell expression of two anophelin proteins, from Anopheles albimanus and Anopheles gambiae, was performed, followed by analysis by mass spectrometry, which showed heterogeneous sulfation at the predicted sites. Homogeneously sulfated variants of the two proteins were subsequently generated by chemical synthesis via a one-pot ligation–desulfurization strategy. Tyrosine sulfation of the anophelins was shown to significantly enhance the thrombin inhibitory activity, with a doubly sulfated variant of the anophelin from A. albimanus exhibiting a 100-fold increase in potency compared with the unmodified homologue. Sulfated anophelins were also shown to exhibit potent in vivo anticoagulant and antithrombotic activity.

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