- Proteases are an evolutionarily conserved family of enzymes that degrade peptide bonds and have been implicated in several common gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. Although luminal proteolytic activity is important for maintenance of homeostasis and health, the current review describes recent advances in our understanding of how overactivity of luminal proteases contributes to the pathophysiology of celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and GI infections. Luminal proteases, many of which are produced by the microbiota, can modulate the immunogenicity of dietary antigens, reduce mucosal barrier function and activate pro-inflammatory and pro-nociceptive host signaling. Increased proteolytic activity has been ascribed to both increases in protease production and decreases in inhibitors of luminal proteases. With the identification of strains of bacteria that are important sources of proteases and their inhibitors, the stage is set to develop drug or microbial therapies to restore protease balance and alleviate disease.