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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Dec;1828(12):2797-800. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Jul 4.

Mechanisms and cellular functions of intramembrane proteases.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, 21205, USA. Electronic address:


The turn of the millennium coincided with the branding of a fundamentally different class of enzyme - proteases that reside immersed inside the membrane. This new field was the convergence of completely separate lines of research focused on cholesterol homeostasis, Alzheimer's disease, and developmental genetics. None intended their ultimate path, but soon became a richly-integrated fabric for an entirely new field: regulated intramembrane proteolysis. Our aim in this Special Issue is to focus on the ancient and nearly ubiquitous enzymes that catalyze this unexpected yet important reaction. The pace of progress has been dramatic, resulting in a rapidly-expanding universe of known cellular functions, and a paradigm shift in the biochemical understanding of these once heretical enzymes. More recently, the first therapeutic successes have been attained by targeting an intramembrane protease. We consider these advances and identify oncoming opportunities in four parts: growing spectra of cellular roles, insights into biochemical mechanisms, therapeutic strategies, and newly-emerging topics. Recent studies also expose challenges for the future, including non-linear relationships between substrate identification and physiological functions, and the need for potent and specific, not broad-class, inhibitors.

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