The HtrA proteases degrade damaged proteins and thus control the quality of proteins and protect cells against the consequences
of various stresses; they also recognize specific protein substrates and in this way participate in regulation of many pathways. In
many pathogenic bacteria strains lacking the HtrA function lose virulence or their virulence is decreased. This is due to an increased vulnerability
of bacteria to stresses or to a decrease in secretion of virulence factors. In some cases HtrA is secreted outside the cell, where it
promotes the pathogen’s invasiveness. Thus, the HtrA proteases of bacterial pathogens are attractive targets for new therapeutic approaches
aimed at inhibiting their proteolytic activity. The exported HtrAs are considered as especially promising targets for chemical inhibitors.
In this review, we characterize the model prokaryotic HtrAs and HtrAs of pathogenic bacteria, focusing on their role in virulence.
In humans HtrA1, HtrA2(Omi) and HtrA3 are best characterized. We describe their role in promoting cell death in stress conditions and
present evidence indicating that HtrA1 and HtrA2 function as tumor suppressors, while HtrA2 stimulates cancer cell death induced by
chemotherapeutic agents. We characterize the HtrA2 involvement in pathogenesis of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and briefly
describe the involvement of human HtrAs in other diseases. We hypothesize that stimulation of the HtrA’s proteolytic activity might be
beneficial in therapies of cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, and discuss the possibilities of modulating HtrA proteolytic activity
considering the present knowledge about their structure and regulation.
Keywords: HtrA of pathogenic bacteria, E. coli HtrA, HtrA in cancer, HtrA in neurodegenerative diseases, HtrA activity regulation, HtrA
and cell death, HtrA targeting.
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