SITE VISIT: All About Proteases

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Science  19 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5409, pp. 1811
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5409.1811d

Whether with a deft snip of a single bond that activates a hormone or an all-out digestive assault on a speck of meat, enzymes called proteases are key players in processing proteins. PROLYSIS, a Web site at the University of Tours in France, offers an introduction to proteases and their inhibitors, including info on assays and enzyme kinetics. The site has an image gallery of proteases and related molecules. And its handy Cutter calculator shows what fragments are produced by cutting a peptide sequence with a certain protease.

For structural and other details on proteases, try Merops, a catalog from Neil Rawlings and Alan Barrett of the Babraham Institute in the United Kingdom. A few years ago the duo developed a classification system for proteases (or peptidases, the term they use). Their site lists Merops IDs for over 900 proteases and holds. “card” for each: a Web page that lists its forms in different organisms and links to entries in peptide sequence, nucleic acid, taxonomic, and structural databases. The cards can be searched by common name, organism, and protease family or clan. Merops also describes where proteases fit in biomedicine and biotech. For example, acutolysin has. “likely role in snake venom toxicity,” while others play a part in everything from cheesemaking to anticoagulant drugs.

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