Cystatin Superfamily

Cystatins, the classical inhibitors of C1 cysteine proteinases, have been extensively studied and reviewed in the literature. Over the last 20 years, however, proteins containing cystatin domains but lacking protease inhibitory activities have been identified, and most likely more will be described in the near future. These proteins together with family 1, 2, and 3 cystatins constitute the cystatin superfamily. Mounting evidence points to the new roles that some members of the superfamily have acquired over the course of their evolution. This review is focused on the roles of cystatins in: 1) tumorigenesis, 2) stabilization of matrix metalloproteinases, 3) glomerular filtration rate, 4) immunomodulation, and 5) neurodegenerative diseases. It is the goal of this review to get as many investigators as possible to take a second look at the cystatin superfamily regarding their potential involvement in serious human ailments.