Families of cysteine peptidases

Methods Enzymol. 1994:244:461-86. doi: 10.1016/0076-6879(94)44034-4.


This chapter presents families of cysteine peptidases. The activity of all cysteine peptidases depends on a catalytic dyad of cysteine and histidine. The order of the cysteine and histidine residues (Cys/His or His/Cys) in the linear sequence differs between families and this is among the lines of evidence suggesting that cysteine peptidases have had many separate evolutionary origins. The families C1, C2, and C10 can be described as “papainlike,” and form clan CA. The papain family contains peptidases with a wide variety of activities, including endopeptidases with broad specificity, endopeptidases with narrow specificity, aminopeptidases, and peptidases with both endopeptidase and exopeptidase activities. Papain homologs are generally either lysosomal or secreted proteins. The calpain family includes the calcium-dependent cytosolic endopeptidase calpain, which is known from birds and mammals, and the product of the sol gene in Drosophila. Calpain is a complex of two peptide chains. Picornains are a family of polyprotein-processing endopeptidases from single-stranded RNA viruses. Each picornavirus has two picornains (2A and 3C).

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / classification*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Cysteine Endopeptidases