Recently, several arthropod peptides that belong to a new serine protease inhibitor family were discovered. Three members (HI, PMP-D2=LMCI-1 and PMP-C LMCI-2) were isolated from the migratory locust, Locusta migratoria. Five additional members (SGPI-1-5) were identified in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, and a heterodimeric serine protease inhibitor (pacifastin) was isolated from the hemolymph of the crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus. The light chain of pacifastin constitutes the inhibitory subunit that has nine cysteine-rich domains (PLDs) that are homologous with the locust inhibitors. These locust inhibitors and PLDs share a conserved array of six cysteine residues (Cys-Xaa(9-12)-Cys-Asn-Xaa-Cys-Xaa-Cys-Xaa(2-3)-Gly-Xaa(3-4)-Cys-Thr-Xaa(3)-Cys), which are involved in an identical disulfide bridge pattern (Cys(1)-Cys(4), Cys(2)-Cys(6), Cys(3)-Cys(5)). The solution structures of LMCI-1 and LMCI-2 showed a similar, compact, globular folding, which is unique within the group of the small 'canonical' inhibitors. Moreover, the reactive site, including the P1-P'1 bond was thoroughly investigated by means of synthetic variants. However, the biological function(s) of the locust inhibitors is (are) not fully understood. LMCI-1 and LMCI-2 were shown to inhibit the endogenous proteolytic activating cascade of prophenoloxidase. Northern blot analysis indicated that the genes encoding the SGPI precursors are differentially expressed in a time-, stage- and hormone-dependent manner. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.