Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Aspects Med. 2008 Oct;29(5):339-58. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2008.04.003. Epub 2008 May 1.

Protease proteomics: revealing protease in vivo functions using systems biology approaches.

Author information

University of British Columbia, Centre for Blood Research, 4.401 Life Sciences Institute, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3.


Proteases irreversibly modify proteins by cleaving their amide bonds and are implicated in virtually every important biological process such as immunity, development and tissue repair. Accordingly, it is easy to see that deregulated proteolysis is a pathognomic feature of many diseases. Most of the current information available on proteases was acquired using in vitro methods, which reveals molecular structure, enzyme kinetics and active-site specificity. However, considerably less is known about the relevant biological functions and combined roles of proteases in moulding the proteome. Although models using genetically modified animals are powerful, they are slow to develop, they can be difficult to interpret, and while useful, they remain only models of human disease. Therefore, to understand how proteases accomplish their tasks in organisms and how they participate in pathology, we need to elucidate the protease degradome-the repertoire of proteases expressed by a cell, a tissue or an organism at a particular time-their expression level, activation state, their biological substrates, also known as the substrate degradome-the repertoire of substrates for each protease-and the effect of the activity of each protease on the pathways of the system under study. Achieving this goal is challenging because several proteases might cleave the same protein, and proteases also form pathways and interact to form the protease web [Overall, C.M., Kleifeld, O., 2006. Tumour microenvironment - opinion: validating matrix metalloproteinases as drug targets and anti-targets for cancer therapy. Nat. Rev. Cancer 6 (3), 227-239]. Hence, the net proteolytic potential of the degradome at a particular time on a substrate and pathway must also be understood. Proteomics offers one of the few routes to the understanding of proteolysis in complex in vivo systems and especially in man where genetic manipulations are impossible. The aim of this chapter is to review methods and tools that allow researchers to study protease biological functions using proteomics and mass spectrometry. We describe methods to assess protease expression at the messenger RNA level using DNA microarrays and at the protein level using mass spectrometry-based proteomics. We also review methods to reveal and quantify the activity state of proteases and to identify their biological substrates. The information acquired using these high throughput, high content techniques can then be interpreted with different bioinformatics approaches to reveal the effects of proteolysis on the system under study. Systems biology of the protease web-degradomics in the broadest sense-promises to reveal the functions of proteases in homeostasis and in disease states. This will indicate which proteases participate in defined pathologies and will help targeting specific proteases for disease treatments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center