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Cell Death Differ. 1999 Jun;6(6):508-15.

Caspase-independent programmed cell death with necrotic morphology.

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Biophysics Division, National Cancer Research Institute, 5-1-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan.


Cell death is generally classified into two large categories: apoptosis represents active, programmed cell death, while necrosis represents passive cell death without underlying regulatory mechanisms. Recent progress revealed that caspases, a family of cysteine proteases, play a central role in the regulation of apoptosis. Unexpectedly, however, caspase inhibition occasionally turns the morphology of programmed cell death from apoptotic into necrotic without inhibiting death itself. In this article, we review different models of caspase-independent programmed cell death showing necrotic-like morphology, including our Ras-mediated caspase-independent cell death. Based on these findings, we suggest the existence of a necrotic-like cell death regulated by cellular intrinsic death programs distinct from that of apoptosis. Even though type 2 physiological cell death, or autophagic degeneration, has been recognized as a necrotic-like programmed cell death for a long time, the underlying molecular mechanisms have not been identified despite its physiological significance. This has been in part due to the previous absence of adequate caspase-independent cellular models to study, recent efforts may now help to elucidate these mechanisms.

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