Background: Ecotins are serine protease inhibitors which are generally found in the
periplasmic compartment. These inhibitors act on a wide range of serine proteases with different efficiencies.
Actually, only few Ecotins were studied, and the main characterized proteins were derived
from Escherichia coli. Functional studies of this latter protein allowed the development of numerous patents
related to Ecotin relevant biotechnological applications.
Objective: This review aims to give an update on the relevant Ecotins already described and to provide
a concise overview concerning the relevant patented applications of these serine protease inhibitors.
Method: In this review, we focus on the analysis of Ecotin diversity and their distribution using Pfam protein
data base. Moreover, we report a detailed overview regarding the biotechnological applications of the Ecotins
based on all patents associated to Ecotins and their biotechnological applications searched in European Patent
Office (Espacenet), United States Patent and National Patent Collections (WIPO) patents databases.
Results: On the basis of this analysis, we demonstrate that Ecotins are mostly present in bacteria. Study
of Ecotin sequences and their biochemical properties reveals that they are a small serine protease inhibitor
group. The high stability and specificity of Ecotins promote their biotechnological uses in several
fields. The original structural organization of Ecotin-protease complexes and their flexibility lead to
several patented applications.
Conclusion: This review showed that Ecotins have many attractive biotechnological applications. Potential
of Ecotins needs to be more investigated seeing the limited available data related to this protein
family. Thus, further functional analyses will promote the use of Ecotins.