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Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(19):2309-27.

Inhibitors of cathepsin B.

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Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Cathepsin B is an abundant and ubiquitously expressed cysteine peptidase of the papain family. It is involved in many physiological processes, such as remodeling of the extracellular matrix (wound healing), apoptosis, and activation of thyroxine and renin. In addition to its physiological roles, cathepsin B is important in many pathological processes, such as inflammation, parasite infection and cancer, where it is highly up-regulated. In cancer patients, elevated cathepsin B activity correlates to poor therapy outcome. Therefore, it is not surprising that the use of cathepsin B inhibitors reduces both tumor cell motility and invasiveness in vitro. This review summarizes recent developments in cathepsin B inhibition. To date, numerous protein inhibitors of cathepsin B have been described, some of which are of endogenous origin and function as regulators of cathepsin B activity in the cell, such as the cystatins. In addition, some exogenous protein inhibitors of cathepsin B have been isolated from various natural sources, and the use of X-ray crystal structures of cathepsin B complexed with such protein inhibitors has resulted in the design and synthesis of many new small-molecular-weight compounds as inhibitors of cathepsin B. These synthetic compounds generally contain an electrophilic functionality that reacts with cathepsin B. In the present review, these inhibitors are divided according to their mechanisms of action, as reversible and irreversible, and then further subdivided into groups for their full descriptions.

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