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ADAMTS13 is a 190 kDa zinc protease encoded by a gene located on chromosome 9q34. This protease specifically hydrolyzes von Willebrand factor (VWF) multimers, thus causing VWF size reduction. ADAMTS13 belongs to the A Disintegrin And Metalloprotease with ThromboSpondin type 1 repeats (ADAMTS) family, involved in proteolytic processing of many matrix proteins. ADAMTS13 consists of numerous domains including a metalloprotease domain, a disintegrin domain, several thrombospondin type 1 (TSP1) repeats, a cysteine-rich domain, a spacer domain and 2 CUB (Complement c1r/c1s, sea Urchin epidermal growth factor, and Bone morphogenetic protein) domains. ADAMTS13 cleaves a single peptide bond (Tyr1605-Met1606) in the central A2 domain of the VWF molecule. This proteolytic cleavage is essential to reduce the size of ultra-large VWF polymers, which, when exposed to high shear stress in the microcirculation, are prone to form with platelets clumps, which cause severe syndromes called thrombotic microangiopathies (TMAs). In this review, we a) discuss the current knowledge of structure-function aspects of ADAMTS13 and its involvement in the pathogenesis of TMAs, b) address the recent findings concerning proteolytic processing of VWF multimers by different proteases, such as the leukocyte-derived serine and metallo-proteases and c) indicate the direction of future investigations
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