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BioDrugs. 2006;20(2):105-19.

Neuroproteases in peptide neurotransmission and neurodegenerative diseases: applications to drug discovery research.

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Department of Pharmacology, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.


The nervous system represents a key area for development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Recent research has demonstrated the critical importance of neuroproteases for the production of specific peptide neurotransmitters and for the production of toxic peptides in major neurodegenerative diseases that include Alzheimer, Huntington, and Parkinson diseases. This review illustrates the successful criteria that have allowed identification of proteases responsible for converting protein precursors into active peptide neurotransmitters, consisting of dual cysteine protease and subtilisin-like protease pathways in neuroendocrine cells. These peptide neurotransmitters are critical regulators of neurologic conditions, including analgesia and cognition, and numerous behaviors. Importantly, protease pathways also represent prominent mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer, Huntington, and Parkinson diseases. Recent studies have identified secretory vesicle cathepsin B as a novel beta-secretase for production of the neurotoxic beta-amyloid (Abeta) peptide of Alzheimer disease. Moreover, inhibition of cathepsin B reduces Abeta peptide levels in brain. These neuroproteases potentially represent new drug targets that should be explored in future pharmaceutical research endeavors for drug discovery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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