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Cell Death Differ. 2002 Aug;9(8):818-31.

Cleavage of plasma membrane calcium pumps by caspases: a link between apoptosis and necrosis.

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  • 1Molecular Toxicology, Faculty of Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany.


Neuronal death, which follows ischemic injury or is triggered by excitotoxins, can occur by both apoptosis and necrosis. Caspases, which are not directly required for necrotic cell death, are central mediators of the apoptotic program. Here we demonstrate that caspases cleave and inactivate the plasma membrane Ca(2+) pump (PMCA) in neurons and non-neuronal cells undergoing apoptosis. PMCA cleavage impairs intracellular Ca(2+) handling, which results in Ca(2+) overload. Expression of non-cleavable PMCA mutants prevents the disturbance in Ca(2+) handling, slows down the kinetics of apoptosis, and markedly delays secondary cell lysis (necrosis). These findings suggest that caspase-mediated cleavage and inactivation of PMCAs can lead to necrosis, an event that is reduced by caspase inhibitors in brain ischemia.

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