Cystatin E/M, also referred to as CST6, is a member of type 2 cysteine proteinase inhibitors of the cystatin superfamily, and inhibits papain and cathepsin B. Cystatin E is a low molecular mass secreted protein existing in both a glycosylated (17 kDa) and an unglycosylated (14 kDa) form, with two characteristic intrachain disulfide bridges. Expression of cystatin M/E is found to be restricted to the epidermis, more specifically in the stratum granulosum, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and the hair follicles. In addition to its function as a cysteine protease inhibitor, cystatin M/E also serves as a target for cross-linking by transglutaminases. Accordingly, cystatin M/E was suggested to be involved in barrier formation and maintenance. Furthermore, studies have revealed that cystatin M/E is frequently epigenetically inactivated during breast carcinogenesis, and thus be regarded as a candidate of tumour suppressor gene.
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