The a disintegrin-like and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin type-1 motifs (ADAMTS) family of metzincins are complex secreted proteins that have diverse functions during development. The hyalectanases (ADAMTS1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 15 and 20) are a subset of this family that have enzymatic activity against hyalectan proteoglycans, the processing of which has important implications during development. This review explores the evolution, expression and developmental functions of the ADAMTS family, focusing on the ADAMTS hyalectanases and their substrates in diverse species. This review gives an overview of how the family and their substrates evolved from non-vertebrates to mammals, the expression of the hyalectanases and substrates in different species and their functions during development, and how these functions are conserved across species.

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