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Protein Sci. 2004 Aug;13(8):1979-87.

Caspase activation, inhibition, and reactivation: a mechanistic view.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Lewis Thomas Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.


Caspases, a unique family of cysteine proteases, execute programmed cell death (apoptosis). Caspases exist as inactive zymogens in cells and undergo a cascade of catalytic activation at the onset of apoptosis. The activated caspases are subject to inhibition by the inhibitor-of-apoptosis (IAP) family of proteins. This inhibition can be effectively removed by diverse proteins that share an IAP-binding tetrapeptide motif. Recent structural and biochemical studies have revealed the underlying molecular mechanisms for these processes in mammals and in Drosophila. This paper reviews these latest advances.

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