A protease can be defined as an enzyme that hydrolyses peptide bonds. Proteases can be divided into endopeptidases, which cleave internal peptide bonds in substrates, and exopeptidases, which cleave the terminal peptide bonds. Exopeptidases can be further subdivided into aminopeptidases and carboxypeptidases. The Schechter and Berger nomenclature provides a model for describing the interactions between the peptide substrate and the active site of a protease. Proteases can also be classified as aspartic proteases, cysteine proteases, metalloproteases, serine proteases and threonine proteases, depending on the nature of the active site. Different inhibitors can be used experimentally to distinguish between these classes of protease. The MEROPs database groups proteases into families on the basis of similarities in sequence and structure. Protease activity can be regulated in vivo by endogenous inhibitors, by the activation of zymogens and by altering the rate of their synthesis and degradation.

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