Elastase, a glycoprotein, is a member of the serine proteases family. It is synthesized by human polymorphonuclear (PMN) leukocytes or by the pancreas. Human granulocyte elastase is liberated in large amounts from granulocytes in chronic inflammatory joint disorders.
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Elastase is a catalytic enzyme that catalyzes the cleavage of carboxyl groups on tiny hydrophobic amino acids including glycine, alanine, and valine. Its main function is to break down elastin. Free elastase in some purulent synovial fluids plays a key role in articular cartilage breakdown. Increased elastase levels in the plasma have been seen in patients with evident rheumatoid arthritis.
Elastase(s) can be assayed and differentiated using chromogenic and fluorogenic Pro-Val peptide substrates such as Glp-Pro-Val-pNA and MeOSuc-Ala-Ala-Pro-Val-4-MNA.