Protease activated receptors (PARs) are a category of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) implicated in the progression of a wide range of diseases, including thrombosis, inflammatory disorders, and proliferative diseases. Signal transduction via PARs proceeds via an unusual activation mechanism. Instead of being activated through direct interaction with an extracellular signal like most GPCRs, they are self-activated following cleavage of their extracellular N-terminus by serine proteases to generate a new receptor N-terminus that acts as an intramolecular ligand by folding back onto itself and triggering receptor activation. Short synthetic peptides corresponding to this newly exposed N-terminal tethered ligand can activate three of the four known PARs in the absence of proteases, and such PAR activating peptides (PAR-APs) have served as templates for agonist/antagonist development. In fact much of the evidence for involvement of PARs in diseases has relied upon use of PAR-APs, often of low potency and uncertain selectivity. This review summarizes current structures of PAR agonists and antagonists, the need for more selective and more potent PAR ligands that activate or antagonize this intriguing class of receptors, and outlines the background relevant to PAR activation, assay methods, and physiological properties anticipated for PAR ligands.
Keywords: GPCR, PAR, protease, review, agonist, antagonist, thrombin, trypsin
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