Protease function is essential to many biological systems and processes. In parasites, proteases are essential for
host tissue degradation, immune evasion, and nutrition acquisition. Helminths (worms) depend on several classes of proteases
for development, host tissue invasion and migration, and for degradation of host hemoglobin and serum proteins.
The protozoa, which cause malaria, depend on both cysteine and aspartic proteases to initiate host hemoglobin digestion.
Other types of proteases are involved in erythrocyte cell invasion and cell exit. Surface metalloproteases in kinetoplastids
are implicated in the evasion of complement-mediated cell lysis and cell entry. Cysteine proteases in Entamoeba facilitate
invasion of the host colon. Giardia utilizes a cysteine protease for both encystation and excystation. This review will
summarize published data using protease inhibitors as tools to identify the function of parasite proteases in the development,
virulence, and pathogenesis of parasites; as well as the role of endogenous parasite protease inhibitors in regulation.
Keywords: Development, digestion, helminths, hemoglobin, kinetoplastids, nutrition acquisition, parasites, pathogenesis, proteases,
protease inhibitors, protozoa, virulence factors.
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