Evolution of Structure and Function of Proteases

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Science  29 Dec 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3809, pp. 1638-1644
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3809.1638


One of the striking features of the proteolytic enzymes as a group is the immense variety of biological functions served by enzymes employing one of a few basic mechanisms. For example, in the higher animals, enzymes for activation of zymogens (trypsin), for digestion of dietary proteins (trypsin, chymotrypsin, elastase), for blood clotting (thrombin), for clot lysis (plasmin), and for sensing pain (kallikrein) all appear to use the same mechanism and to have evolved from the same ancestral gene by the process of gene duplication and subsequent divergent evolution. Equally striking is the variety of chemical solutions of the same functional problem, such as the peptide-bond cleavage by sulfhydryl proteases on the one hand and serine proteases on the other.