, Volume 171, Issue 5, pp 299–323 | Cite as

Fungal Proteases and Their Pathophysiological Effects

  • Iwona Yike


Proteolytic enzymes play an important role in fungal physiology and development. External digestion of protein substrates by secreted proteases is required for survival and growth of both saprophytic and pathogenic species. Extracellular serine, aspartic, and metalloproteases are considered virulence factors of many pathogenic species. New findings focus on novel membrane-associated proteases such as yapsins and ADAMs and their role in pathology. Proteases from fungi induce inflammatory responses by altering the permeability of epithelial barrier and by induction of proinflammatory cytokines through protease-activated receptors. Many fungal allergens possess proteolytic activity that appears to be essential in eliciting Th2 responses. Allergenic fungal proteases can act as adjuvants, potentiating responses to other allergens. Proteolytic enzymes from fungi contribute to inflammation through interactions with the kinin system as well as the coagulation and fibrinolytic cascades. Their effect on the host protease–antiprotease balance results from activation of endogenous proteases and degradation of protease inhibitors. Recent studies of the role of fungi in human health point to the growing importance of proteases not only as pathogenic agents in fungal infections but also in asthma, allergy, and damp building related illnesses. Proteolytic enzymes from fungi are widely used in biotechnology, mainly in food, leather, and detergent industries, in ecological bioremediation processes and to produce therapeutic peptides. The involvement of fungal proteases in diverse pathological mechanisms makes them potential targets of therapeutic intervention and candidates for biomarkers of disease and exposure.


Fungi Proteases Allergens Th2 responses Inflammation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of MedicineCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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