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peptidase

any of a group of enzymes that break the long chainlike molecules of proteins into shorter fragments (peptides) and eventually into their components, amino acids. Proteolytic enzymes are present in bacteria and plants but are most abundant in animals. In the stomach, protein materials are attacked initially by the gastric enzyme pepsin. When the protein material is passed to the small intestine, proteins, which are only partially digested in the stomach, are further attacked by proteolytic enzymes secreted by the pancreas.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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