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Acta Biochim Pol. 2011;58(3):287-96. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Conventional calpains and programmed cell death.

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  • 1Department of Pathophysiology, Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland.


The evidence on the crucial role of a family of calcium-dependent cysteine proteases called calpains in programmed cell death is rich and still growing. However, understanding of the mechanisms of their functions in apoptosis is not full yet. Calpains have been implicated in both physiological and pathological cell death control, especially in various malignancies, but also in the immune system development and function. There is also growing evidence on calpain involvement in apoptosis execution in certain pathological conditions of the central nervous system, in cardiovascular diseases, etc. Understanding of the clinical significance of calpain activation pathways, after intense studies of the influence of calpain activity on drug-induced apoptosis, seems especially important lately, as calpains have become noticed as potential therapeutic targets. To allow pharmacological targeting of these enzymes, thorough knowledge of their patterns of activation and further interactions with already known apoptotic pathways is necessary. A comprehensive summary of both well established and recently obtained information in the field is an important step that may lead to future advances in the use of calpain-targeted agents in the clinic.

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