Protease-activated receptors: How proteases signal to cells to cause inflammation and pain

Nigel W. Bunnett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Certain serine proteases that originate from the circulation (coagulation factors), inflammatory cells (mast cell tryptase, neutrophil granzyme A, and proteinase 3), and epithelial and neuronal tissues (trypsins) can specifically regulate cells by cleaving protease-activated receptors (PARs), a family of four G-protein-coupled receptors. Proteases cleave PARs on multiple cell types to reveal tethered ligand domains that bind to and activate the cleaved receptors. The proteases that activate PARs are often generated and secreted during injury and inflammation, and PARs orchestrate tissue responses to these insults, including hemostasis, inflammation, nociception, and repair mechanisms. Agonists of PARs, notably PAR2, induce inflammation in many tissues that is characterized by hyperemia, extravasation of plasma proteins, granulocyte infiltration, and alterations in epithelial permeability. These effects are mediated in part by the release of neuropeptides substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide from sensory nerve fibers in peripheral tissues. Proteases that activate PAR2 also induce the release of neuropeptides from the central projections of these nerves in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, where they participate in pain transmission. Accumulating evidence from PAR-deficient mice indicates that these mechanisms may contribute to experimental models of disease and raise the possibility that protease inhibitors and PAR antagonists may be useful therapies for a variety of inflammatory and painful conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Cell-surface proteases
  • Inflammation
  • Neurogenic inflammation
  • Nociception
  • Protease-activated receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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