Cleavage of proteins in the extracellular milieu, including hormones, growth factors and their receptors, ion channels, and various cell adhesion and extracellular matrix molecules, plays a key role in the regulation of cell behavior. Among more than 500 proteolytic enzymes encoded by mammalian genomes, membrane-anchored serine proteases (MASPs), which are expressed on the surface of epithelial cells of all major organs, are excellently suited to mediate signal transduction across the epithelia and are increasingly being recognized as important regulators of epithelial development, function, and disease [ 1–3]. In this minireview, we summarize current knowledge of the in vivo roles of MASPs in acquisition and maintenance of some of the defining functions of epithelial tissues, such as barrier formation, ion transport, and sensory perception.

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