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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2000 Jun;11(3):191-201.

Proteolytic regulation of apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Tumor Cell Biology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38101, USA.


Much of the proteolysis that occurs during apoptosis is directed by caspases, a family of related cysteinyl proteases. A relatively small number of cellular proteins are targeted by caspases, yet their function is dramatically affected and apoptosis is triggered. Other proteases, such as granzymes and calpain, are also involved in the apoptotic signaling process, but in a much more cell type- and/or stimulus type-specific manner. At least three distinct caspase-signaling pathways exist; one activated through ligand-dependent death receptor oligomerization, the second through mitochondrial disruption, and the third through stress-mediated events involving the endoplasmic reticulum. These pathways also appear to interact to amplify weak apoptotic signals and shorten cellular execution time. Finally, defects in caspases contribute to autoimmune disease, cancer and certain neurological disorders.

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