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Cardiovasc Res. 2012 Oct 1;96(1):11-22. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvs157. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Regulation and physiological roles of the calpain system in muscular disorders.

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Calpain Project, Department of Advanced Science for Biomolecules, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, 2-1-6 Kamikitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 156-8506, Japan.


Calpains, a family of Ca(2+)-dependent cytosolic cysteine proteases, can modulate their substrates' structure and function through limited proteolytic activity. In the human genome, there are 15 calpain genes. The most-studied calpains, referred to as conventional calpains, are ubiquitous. While genetic studies in mice have improved our understanding about the conventional calpains' physiological functions, especially those essential for mammalian life as in embryogenesis, many reports have pointed to overactivated conventional calpains as an exacerbating factor in pathophysiological conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and muscular dystrophies. For treatment of these diseases, calpain inhibitors have always been considered as drug targets. Recent studies have introduced another aspect of calpains that calpain activity is required to protect the heart and skeletal muscle against stress. This review summarizes the functions and regulation of calpains, focusing on the relevance of calpains to cardiovascular disease.

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