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Biol Chem. 2007 Nov;388(11):1141-9.

Cysteine proteases: destruction ability versus immunomodulation capacity in immune cells.

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Department of Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology, Jozef Stefan Institute, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Cysteine proteases (cathepsins) play a pivotal role in various physiological processes, as well as in several diseases. In the immune response, maturation of major histocompatibility class II (MHC II) molecules and processing of antigens for further presentation by MHC II is tightly linked to the enzymes of the endosomal/lysosomal system, of which cysteine proteases constitute a major proportion. Furthermore, the process of autophagy provides access for cytosolic antigens to proteolysis by lysosomal cathepsins and subsequent MHC II presentation. Other specific functions of proteolytic enzymes associated with the immune response, such as activation of granzymes by cathepsin C in T-lymphocytes, are introduced and covered in this review.

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