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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1997 Sep 30;25(1):85-95.

The role of thrombin-like (serine) proteases in the development, plasticity and pathology of the nervous system.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


There is increasing evidence suggesting that members of the serine protease family, including thrombin, chymotrypsin, urokinase plasminogen activator, and kallikrein, may play a role in normal development and/or pathology of the nervous system. Serine proteases and their cognate inhibitors have been shown to be increased in the neural parenchyma and cerebrospinal fluid following injury to the blood brain barrier. Zymogen precursors of thrombin and thrombin-like proteases as well as their receptors have also been localized in several distinct regions of the developing or adult brain. Thrombin-like proteases have been shown to exert deleterious effects, including neurite retraction and death, on different neuronal and non-neuronal cell populations in vitro. These effects appear to be mediated through cell surface receptors and can be prevented or reversed with specific serine protease inhibitors (serpins). Furthermore, we have recently shown that treatment with protease nexin-1 (a serpin that inhibits thrombin-like proteases) promotes the survival and growth of spinal motoneurons during the period of programmed cell death and following injury. Taken together, these observations suggest that thrombin-like proteases play a deleterious role, whereas serpins promote the development and maintenance of neuronal cells. Thus, changes in the balance between serine proteases and their cognate inhibitors may lead to pathological states similar to those associated with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The present review summarizes the current state of research involving such serine proteases and speculates on the possible role of these thrombin-like proteases in the development, plasticity and pathology of the nervous system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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