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Biochem J. 2010 Jun 15;428(3):325-46. doi: 10.1042/BJ20100046.

The cutting edge: membrane-anchored serine protease activities in the pericellular microenvironment.

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Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases and Department of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


The serine proteases of the trypsin-like (S1) family play critical roles in many key biological processes including digestion, blood coagulation, and immunity. Members of this family contain N- or C-terminal domains that serve to tether the serine protease catalytic domain directly to the plasma membrane. These membrane-anchored serine proteases are proving to be key components of the cell machinery for activation of precursor molecules in the pericellular microenvironment, playing vital functions in the maintenance of homoeostasis. Substrates activated by membrane-anchored serine proteases include peptide hormones, growth and differentiation factors, receptors, enzymes, adhesion molecules and viral coat proteins. In addition, new insights into our understanding of the physiological functions of these proteases and their involvement in human pathology have come from animal models and patient studies. The present review discusses emerging evidence for the diversity of this fascinating group of membrane serine proteases as potent modifiers of the pericellular microenvironment through proteolytic processing of diverse substrates. We also discuss the functional consequences of the activities of these proteases on mammalian physiology and disease.

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