The importance of peptidases in cell signaling is well established. Unlike many pathways controlled by phosphorylation, glycosylation, ubiquitination, or other types of post-translational modifications, steps governed by proteases are essentially irreversible because there is no efficacious mechanism for peptide bond ligation. This chapter presents the peptidase family of caspases, which performs limited proteolysis on a wide range of substrates with molecular consequences ranging from inactivation to gain-of-function to accelerated degradation of their targets. It is important to emphasize that caspases are signaling peptidases and not degrading enzymes akin to lysosomal cathepsins or digestive enzymes. The caspases that are principally implicated in inflammation and apoptosis will be the focus of this chapter; we will not discuss the roles of caspase 14.
In 1842, Karl Christoph Vogt, a German scientist, recognized the presence of cell death during the neuronal...
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