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Granule Proteases Of Hematopoietic Cells, A Family Of Versatile Inflammatory Mediators – An Update On Their Cleavage Specificity, In Vivo Substrates, And Evolution

Lars Hellman, Michael Thorpe

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Abstract Cells from several of the hematopoietic cell lineages including mast cells, basophils, neutrophils, cytotoxic T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells store proteases at very high levels within their cytoplasmic granules. In mast cells, these proteases can account for up to 35% of the total cellular protein, and the absolute majority of these belong to the chymotrypsin-related serine protease family. A number of very diverse functions have been identified for these proteases, including apoptosis induction, blood pressure regulation, inactivation of insect and snake toxins, intestinal parasite expulsion, killing of bacteria and fungi, induction, mobilization, or degradation of cytokines, and the degradation of connective tissue components. A very broad spectrum of primary cleavage specificities has also been observed, including chymase, tryptase, asp-ase, elastase, and met-ase specificities, which highlights the large flexibility in the active site of these proteases. Mast cells primarily express chymases and tryptases with chymotryptic or tryptic primary cleavage specificities, respectively. Neutrophils have several enzymes with chymase, elastase, and tryptase specificities. T cells and NK cells express between 5 and 14 different granzymes, depending on the species, and these enzymes have tryptase, asp-ase, chymase, and met-ase specificities. This review focuses on the appearance of these proteases during vertebrate evolution, their primary and extended cleavage specificities, and their potential in vivo substrates. The in vivo substrates and functions are a particular challenging issue because several of these enzymes have a relatively broad specificity and may therefore cleave a wide range of different substrates.