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Any one of a family of enzymes, also known as hyaluronate lyases or spreading factors, produced by mammals, reptiles, insects, and bacteria, which catalyze the breakdown of hyaluronic acid. Some hyaluronidases also attack other similar polysaccharides. Since all liquefy the polysaccharide gel which fills the tissue spaces, they effectively accelerate diffusion so that injected, dissolved, or particulate matter (bacteria, viruses, toxins, or pigments) can diffuse through a larger volume of tissue. See Hyaluronic acid
The biological importance of the enzyme depends upon its source. That found in the culture filtrates of many strains of virulent bacteria permits the microorganisms to gain access to a larger volume of the host's tissue and, hence, to additional nutriment. That found in the venom of certain snakes and bees permits the toxin to produce more extensive damage to the victim. See Enzyme