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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1991 May;4(5):387-94.

The structure and airway biology of mast cell proteinases.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco. 94143-0911.


Recent studies have led to a rapid expansion of knowledge concerning the structure and biology of the two major mast cell proteinases, tryptase and chymase. Tryptase is an abundant, trypsin-like enzyme found in the secretory granules of all human lung mast cells. The subunits of the heparin-associated tryptase tetramer appear to be the products of a multigene family whose intron-exon organization is unique and is not closely related to that of other mast cell or leukocyte serine proteinases. In vitro studies suggest that tryptases may participate in lung and airway responses by regulating airway neuropeptide activity, bronchomotor tone, and fibroblast mitogenesis. Mast cell chymases are chymotrypsin-like proteinases related closely to neutrophil cathepsin G and lymphocyte granzymes. The cDNA-derived structures of tryptase and chymase suggest that the two enzymes may differ in modes of activation from proenzyme forms, although the mature enzymes are packaged and released together. Chymase expression appears to be limited to a subset of human lung mast cells most prevalent in the airway submucosa. Possible roles for chymase include inactivation of sensory neuropeptides, regulation of submucosal gland secretion, and potentiation of histamine-induced vascular permeability.

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