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Trends Cell Biol. 1999 Dec;9(12):M49-52.

Death by design: mechanism and control of apoptosis.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Dept of Biology and Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 68-430, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. zhiwei@wccf.mit.edu


Active cellular suicide by apoptosis plays important roles in animal development, tissue homeostasis and a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, AIDS, stroke and many neurodegenerative disorders. A central step in the execution of apoptosis is the activation of an unusual class of cysteine proteases, termed caspases, that are widely expressed as inactive zymogens. Originally, the mechanisms for regulating the caspase-based cell death programme seemed to be different in Caenorhabditis elegans, mammals and insects. However, recent results suggest that these apparent differences in the control of cell death reflect our incomplete knowledge, rather than genuine mechanistic differences between different organisms.

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