The history of calpain originates in 1964, when calcium-dependent proteolytic activities caused by a “calcium-activated neutral protease” (CANP) were detected in brain, lens of the eye and other tissues. In the late 1960s the enzymes were isolated and characterised independently in both rat brain and skeletal muscle.
These activities were caused by an intracellular cysteine protease not associated with the lysosome and having an optimum activity at neutral pH, which clearly distinguished it from the cathepsin family of proteases. The calcium-dependent activity, intracellular localization, along with the limited, specific proteolysis on its substrates, highlighted calpain’s role as a regulatory, rather than a digestive protease.
When the sequence of this enzyme became known, it was given the name “calpain”, to recognize it as a hybrid of two well-known proteins at the time, the calcium-regulated signalling protein, calmodulin, and the cysteine protease of papaya, papain. Shortly thereafter, the activity was found to be attributable to two main isoforms, dubbed μ("mu")-calpain and m-calpain (a.k.a. calpain I and II), that differed primarily in their calcium requirements in vitro.
No specific amino acid sequence is uniquely recognized by calpains. Amongst protein substrates, tertiary structure elements rather than primary amino acid sequences are likely responsible for directing cleavage to a specific substrate.
Amongst peptide and small-molecule substrates, the most consistently reported specificity is for small, hydrophobic amino acids (e.g. leucine, valine and isoleucine) at the P2 position, and large hydrophobic amino acids (e.g. phenylalanine and tyrosine) at the P1 position. Arguably, the best currently available fluorogenic calpain substrate is (EDANS)-Glu-Pro-Leu-Phe=Ala-Glu-Arg-Lys-(DABCYL), with cleavage occurring at the Phe=Ala bond.
Although the physiological role of calpains is still poorly understood, they have been shown to be active participants in processes such as cell mobility and cell cycle progression, as well as cell-type specific functions such as long-term potentiation in neurons and cell fusion in myoblasts. Under these physiological conditions, a transient and localized influx of calcium into the cell activates a small local population of calpains (for example, those close to Ca2+ channels).
which then advance the signal transduction pathway by catalyzing the controlled proteolysis of its target proteins. Other reported roles of calpains are in cell function, helping to regulate clotting and the diameter of blood vessels, and playing a role in memory. Calpains have been implicated in apoptotic cell death, and appear to be an essential component of necrosis.
In the brain, while μ-calpain is mainly located in the cell body and dendrites of neurons and to a lesser extent in axons and glial cells, m-calpain is found in glia and a small amount in axons. Calpain is also involved in skeletal muscle protein breakdown due to exercise and altered nutritional states.(wikipedia.org)