Vitronectin (VN) is a glycoprotein found in extracellular matrix and blood. Collagen, a major extracellular matrix component in mammals, is degraded by cathepsin K (CatK), which is essential for bone resorption under acidic conditions. The relationship between VN and cathepsins has been unclear. We discovered that VN promoted collagen fibril formation and inhibited CatK activity, and observed its activation in vitro. VN accelerated collagen fibril formation at neutral pH. Collagen fibers formed with VN were in close contact with each other and appeared as scattered flat masses in scanning electron microscopy images. VN formed collagen fibers with high acid solubility and significantly inhibited CatK; the IC50 was 8.1–16.6 nM and competitive, almost the same as those of human and porcine VNs. VN inhibited the autoprocessing of inactive pro-CatK from active CatK. DeN-glycosylation of VN attenuated the inhibitory effects of CatK and its autoprocessing by VN, but had little effect on acid solubilization of collagen and VN degradation via CatK. CatK inhibition is an attractive treatment approach for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. These findings suggest that glycosylated VN is a potential biological candidate for CatK inhibition and may help to understand the molecular mechanisms of tissue re-modeling.
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