Caspase cascades and caspase targets
Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved form of cell suicide. Cells that die by apoptosis are disassembled in a stereotypical manner resulting in a characteristic ‘apoptotic morphology’. It was this characteristic, uniform morphology displayed by cells during apoptosis which led to the assumption that cells contain a similar execution machinery running according to a program present in all cells. The apoptosis-inducing stimuli are extremely diverse, engage sometimes totally different signalling pathways but are finally translated into the same response of a co-ordinated cell death. Furthermore, induction of apoptosis is sometimes very rapid, in the range of minutes to hours from receiving the signal until the first apoptotic signs appear. For such a fast event, time is too short to start the synthesis of new proteins executing the apoptotic program. Thus, all the components of the death machinery are present in a dormant form and are rapidly converted if necessary. In recent years many of the molecules involved in apoptotic death have been identified and functionally assigned to different stages of apoptosis. The final stage, also called execution, is initiated and co-ordinated by a recently identified class of cysteine proteases termed caspases.
KeywordsDeath Receptor Adaptor Molecule CASPASE Cascade Initiator Caspases Death Effector Domain
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