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Serine protease inhibitors, SERPINS, are a highly conserved family of proteins that regulate serine proteases in the central coagulation and immune pathways, representing 2-10% of circulating proteins in the blood. Serine proteases form cascades of sequentially activated enzymes that direct thrombosis (clot formation) and thrombolysis (clot dissolution), complement activation in immune responses and also programmed cell death (apoptosis). Virus-derived serpins have co-evolved with mammalian proteases and serpins, developing into highly effective inhibitors of mammalian proteolytic pathways. Through interacting with extracellular and intracellular serine and cysteine proteases, viral serpins provide a new class of highly active virus-derived coagulation-, immune-, and apoptosis-modulating drug candidates. Viral serpins have unique characteristics: (1) function at micrograms per kilogram doses; (2) selectivity in targeting sites of protease activation; (3) minimal side effects at active concentrations; and (4) the demonstrated capacity to be modified, or fine-tuned, for altered protease targeting. To date, the virus-derived serpin class of biologics has proven effective in a wide range of animal models and in one clinical trial in patients with unstable coronary disease. Here, we outline the known viral serpins and review prior studies with viral serpins, considering their potential for application as new sources for immune-, coagulation-, and apoptosis-modulating therapeutics.



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apoptosis, baculovirus, biologic, coagulation, immune-modulating, plant virus, poxvirus, serpin, virus