Human cathepsin L belongs to the cathepsin family of proteolytic enzymes with primarily an endopeptidase activity. Although its primary functions were originally thought to be only of a housekeeping enzyme that degraded intracellular and endocytosed proteins in lysosome, numerous recent studies suggest that it plays many critical and specific roles in diverse cellular settings. Not surprisingly, the dysregulated function of cathepsin L has manifested itself in several human diseases, making it an attractive target for drug development. Unfortunately, several redundant and isoform-specific functions have recently emerged, adding complexities to the drug discovery process. To address this, a series of chemical biology tools have been developed that helped define cathepsin L biology with exquisite precision in specific cellular contexts. This review elaborates on the recently developed small molecule inhibitors and probes of human cathepsin L, outlining their mechanisms of action, and describing their potential utilities in dissecting unknown function.
Keywords: CA-074; E-64; KDP-1; activity-based probes; cathepsin L ABP; cathepsin L inhibitor; cathepsin L probe; clickable ABP; human cathepsin L.