Cystatin protease inhibitors and immune functions

Front Biosci. 2008 May 1;13:4625-37. doi: 10.2741/3028.


Cystatins are natural tight-binding reversible inhibitors of cysteine proteases. They are wide spread in all living organisms (mammals, nematodes, arthropods etc.) and are involved in various biological processes where they regulate normal proteolysis and also take part in disease pathology. Many cystatins show changes in expression and/or localization, as well as changes in secretion, following certain stimuli acting on immune cells. In immune cells, cystatins interfere with antigen processing and presentation, phagocytosis, expression of cytokines and nitric oxide and these ways modify the immune response. Further, it has been suggested that cystatin-type molecules secreted from parasites down-modulate the host immune response. Precise understanding of the regulatory roles on proteolytic enzymes of endogenous and exogenous cystatins, such as those from parasites, will provide us with valuable insight into how immune response could be modulated to treat a specific disease. This review covers some specific functions of individual cystatins, with a particular focus on the relevance of cystatins to the immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cystatin B
  • Cystatin C
  • Cystatins / immunology
  • Cystatins / isolation & purification
  • Cystatins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kininogens / immunology
  • Kininogens / physiology
  • Mammals
  • Nematoda
  • Ticks


  • CST3 protein, human
  • CSTB protein, human
  • Cystatin C
  • Cystatins
  • Kininogens
  • Cystatin B