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Protease vs. Peptidase: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
Protease is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of proteins into peptides, while peptidase breaks down smaller peptides into amino acids. Both are vital for metabolic processes.

Key Differences

Protease is widely recognized for its crucial role in the hydrolysis of proteins into smaller peptide fragments. The physiological implications of proteases extend across various bodily processes, including digestion and cellular regulation. Peptidase, on the other hand, functions similarly but acts explicitly on smaller peptide chains, ensuring they are broken down into individual amino acids. Both enzymes play integral roles in maintaining biological homeostasis by managing protein and peptide breakdown.
In clinical contexts, the role of protease is often underscored due to its involvement in pathways associated with inflammation and coagulation. Proteases have found substantial utility in research and pharmaceutical applications, particularly in the development of certain therapeutics. Peptidases are equally critical in medical and research contexts, facilitating the analysis of peptide structures and interactions through their capacity to selectively cleave peptide bonds, thereby revealing smaller, analyzable fragments.
It’s crucial to note that proteases are characterized by their ability to cleave protein substrates, a trait that is influenced by various factors, including pH, temperature, and substrate specificity. The diverse classifications of proteases, based on their mechanism of action—such as serine, cysteine, and aspartic proteases—further elucidate the breadth of their biological activity. Similarly, peptidases can be classified based on their substrate specificity and the particular peptide bonds they target, which is pivotal for understanding their role in metabolic pathways.
In industrial applications, proteases are hailed for their ability to hydrolyze proteins in various processes, including the preparation of protein hydrolysates and the modification of protein functionality in food products. Peptidases too find utility in industrial applications, particularly in facilitating the production of bioactive peptides and enhancing the flavor profiles of fermented food products, underlining the significance of both enzymes beyond biological matrices.
While protease and peptidase both perform hydrolytic functions on proteins and peptides respectively, the specificity, application, and implication of these enzymes showcase the nuanced, yet distinct roles they play in biological, clinical, industrial, and research contexts.

Comparison Chart

Substrate Size

Typically acts on larger protein molecules.
Acts on smaller peptides.

Resultant Molecules

Produces smaller peptides from proteins.
Produces amino acids from peptides.

Biological Role

Involved in a wide range of metabolic processes, such as digestion.
More focused on the final stages of protein degradation.

Application in Industry

Widely used in the food industry to hydrolyze large protein molecules.
Often used to produce amino acids in various industrial applications.

Enzyme Classification

Categorized based on the active site residue and mechanism of action.
Classified depending on the site of peptide bond cleavage.

Protease and Peptidase Definitions


Protease is an enzyme that facilitates the catabolism of proteins into smaller peptides.
The addition of protease to the laundry detergent helps break down protein stains on clothes.


Various forms of peptidases are involved in physiological processes, such as digestion and immune responses.
Aminopeptidase helps to free amino acids during the digestive process by acting on peptides.


Protease can be derived from various sources, including plants, animals, and microorganisms, to serve varied applications.
Papain, a protease from papaya, is often used tenderize meat in culinary applications.


Peptidases are crucial in regulating peptide signals in the body by degrading signaling peptides.
Neprilysin, a peptidase, regulates the activity of natriuretic peptides, influencing blood pressure


Proteases are categorized into different classes, such as serine proteases and cysteine proteases, based on their active site and mechanism.
Chymotrypsin, a serine protease, is crucial for digesting dietary proteins in the small intestine.


Peptidase is an enzyme that cleaves peptide bonds, breaking down peptides into amino acids.
Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 breaks specific dipeptides and plays a role in blood sugar regulation.


In the human body, protease is vital for various metabolic processes, including digestion and immune function.
Without adequate protease activity, digestion of protein-rich foods like meat can be compromised.


Peptidases can be classified based on their action site on substrates, such as exopeptidases and endopeptidases.
Carboxypeptidase, an exopeptidase, removes amino acids from the carboxyl end of peptides.


In research and diagnostic purposes, proteases are utilized to cleave proteins and analyze their fragments.
Protease is used to break down cellular proteins during sample preparation for mass spectrometry.


In medical research, peptidases are studied for their roles in various diseases and potential therapeutic interventions.
Inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme, a peptidase, are utilized to treat hypertension.


Any of various enzymes, including the endopeptidases and exopeptidases, that catalyze the hydrolytic breakdown of proteins. Also called peptidase.


See protease.


(enzyme) An enzyme that cuts or cleaves proteins.


(enzyme) Any enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of peptides into amino acids; a protease.


Any enzyme that catalyzes the splitting of proteins into smaller peptide fractions and amino acids by a process known as proteolysis


Any enzyme that catalyzes the splitting of proteins into smaller peptide fractions and amino acids by a process known as proteolysis


Are peptidases a subtype of protease?

Yes, peptidases are considered a subtype of proteases, focusing on breaking down smaller peptides.

Do proteases and peptidases play roles in human health?

Absolutely, both enzymes are pivotal in digestive processes and various metabolic activities in the body.

What is the difference between endopeptidases and exopeptidases?

Endopeptidases cut within peptide chains, while exopeptidases act at the ends of peptide chains.

How are proteases classified?

Proteases are classified based on their catalytic residue and mechanism, such as serine proteases and cysteine proteases.

Can protease inhibitors be used therapeutically?

Yes, protease inhibitors are utilized in several therapeutic contexts, including HIV treatment.

Do proteases have industrial applications?

Yes, proteases are used in various industries, including food, detergents, and pharmaceuticals.

What are the substrates for peptidases?

Peptidases act on smaller peptides, typically breaking them into amino acids.

What is the primary function of protease?

Proteases primarily break down proteins into smaller peptides through enzymatic action.

Are peptidases found only in the human body?

No, peptidases are found across various organisms, including plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Is peptidase activity involved in any disease mechanisms?

Yes, altered peptidase activity can be involved in various diseases, such as hypertension and certain metabolic disorders.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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