Plant Kunitz inhibitors and their Interaction with proteases: current and potential pharmacological targets

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The action of proteases can be controlled by several mechanisms, including regulation through gene expression; post-translational modifications, such as glycosylation; zymogen activation; targeting specific compartments, such as lysosomes and mitochondria; and blocking proteolysis using endogenous inhibitors. Protease inhibitors are important molecules to be explored for the control of proteolytic processes in organisms because of their ability to act on several proteases. In this context, plants synthesize numerous proteins that contribute to protection against attacks by microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) and/or invertebrates (insects and nematodes) through the inhibition of proteases in these organisms. These proteins are widely distributed in the plant kingdom, and are present in higher concentrations in legume seeds (compared to other organs and other botanical families), motivating studies on their inhibitory effects in various organisms, including humans. In most cases, the biological roles of these proteins have been assigned based mostly on their in vitro action, as is the case with enzyme inhibitors. This review highlights the structural evolution, function, and wide variety of effects of plant Kunitz protease inhibitors, and their potential for pharmaceutical application based on their interactions with different proteases.
Bonturi CR, Teixeira ABS, Rocha VM, Valente PF, Oliveira JR, Filho CMB, et al. Plant Kunitz inhibitors and their Interaction with proteases: current and potential pharmacological targets. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022 Apr; 23(9):4742. doi:10.3390/ijms23094742.
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