Article

Functional imaging of proteases: recent advances in the design and application of substrate-based and activity-based probes.

Cancer Biology Program, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Dr., Stanford, CA 94305-5324, USA.
Current opinion in chemical biology (Impact Factor: 8.3). 11/2011; 15(6):798-805.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Proteases are enzymes that cleave peptide bonds in protein substrates. This process can be important for regulated turnover of a target protein but it can also produce protein fragments that then perform other functions. Because the last few decades of protease research have confirmed that proteolysis is an essential regulatory process in both normal physiology and in multiple disease-associated conditions, there has been an increasing interest in developing methods to image protease activity. Proteases are also considered to be one of the few 'druggable' classes of proteins and therefore a large number of small molecule based inhibitors of proteases have been reported. These compounds serve as a starting point for the design of probes that can be used to target active proteases for imaging applications. Currently, several classes of fluorescent probes have been developed to visualize protease activity in live cells and even whole organisms. The two primary classes of protease probes make use of either peptide/protein substrates or covalent inhibitors that produce a fluorescent signal when bound to an active protease target. This review outlines some of the most recent advances in the design of imaging probes for proteases. In particular, it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of both substrate-based and activity-based probes and their applications for imaging cysteine proteases that are important biomarkers for multiple human diseases.

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