Most proteases are synthesized in the cell as precursor-containing propeptides. These structural elements can determine the folding of the cognate protein, function as an inhibitor/activator peptide, mediate enzyme sorting, and mediate the protease interaction with other molecules and supramolecular structures. The data presented in this review demonstrate modulatory activity of propeptides irrespective of the specific mechanism of action. Changes in propeptide structure, sometimes minor, can crucially alter protein function in the living organism. Modulatory activity coupled with high variation allows us to consider propeptides as specific evolutionary modules that can transform biological properties of proteases without significant changes in the highly conserved catalytic domains. As the considered properties of propeptides are not unique to proteases, propeptide-mediated evolution seems to be a universal biological mechanism.
BioMolecular Concepts is a peer-reviewed journal fostering the integration of different fields of biomolecular research. The journal provides expert summaries and conclusive extensions of research data leading to new and original, testable hypotheses. Aspects of research that can promote related fields and lead to novel insight into biological mechanisms are of special interest.