Cathepsins encompass a family of lysosomal proteases that mediate protein degradation and turnover. Although mainly localized in the endolysosomal compartment, cathepsins are also found in the cytoplasm, nucleus, and extracellular space, where they are involved in cell signaling, extracellular matrix assembly/disassembly, and protein processing and trafficking through the plasma and nuclear membrane and between intracellular organelles. Ubiquitously expressed in the body, cathepsins play regulatory roles in a wide range of physiological processes including coagulation, hormone secretion, immune responses, and others. A dysregulation of cathepsin expression and/or activity has been associated with many human diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, kidney dysfunctions, and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as infectious diseases. In viral infections, cathepsins may promote (1) activation of the viral attachment glycoproteins and entry of the virus into target cells; (2) antigen processing and presentation, enabling the virus to replicate in infected cells; (3) up-regulation and processing of heparanase that facilitates the release of viral progeny and the spread of infection; and (4) activation of cell death that may either favor viral clearance or assist viral propagation. In this review, we report the most relevant findings on the molecular mechanisms underlying cathepsin involvement in viral infection physiopathology, and we discuss the potential of cathepsin inhibitors for therapeutical applications in viral infectious diseases.
Scarcella, Melania;d'Angelo, Danila;Ciampa, Mariangela;Tafuri, Simona;Avallone, Luigi;Pavone, Luigi Michele;De Pasquale, Valeria
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