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Curr Med Chem. 2013;20(25):3078-102.

Synthetic and natural protease inhibitors provide insights into parasite development, virulence and pathogenesis.

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Department of Pathology and the CDIPD, QB3, Byers Hall 509, 1700 4th St., University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


Protease function is essential to many biological systems and processes. In parasites, proteases are essential for host tissue degradation, immune evasion, and nutrition acquisition. Helminths (worms) depend on several classes of proteases for development, host tissue invasion and migration, and for degradation of host hemoglobin and serum proteins. The protozoa, which cause malaria, depend on both cysteine and aspartic proteases to initiate host hemoglobin digestion. Other types of proteases are involved in erythrocyte cell invasion and cell exit. Surface metalloproteases in kinetoplastids are implicated in the evasion of complement-mediated cell lysis and cell entry. Cysteine proteases in Entamoeba facilitate invasion of the host colon. Giardia utilizes a cysteine protease for both encystation and excystation. This review will summarize published data using protease inhibitors as tools to identify the function of parasite proteases in the development, virulence, and pathogenesis of parasites; as well as the role of endogenous parasite protease inhibitors in regulation.

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