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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2003 Dec;15(6):725-31.

Mechanisms of caspase activation.

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Program in Cell Death and Apoptosis Research, The Burnham Institute, 10901 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The core effectors of apoptosis encompass proteolytic enzymes of the caspase family, which reside as latent precursors in most nucleated metazoan cells. A majority of studies on apoptosis are based on the assumption that caspase precursors are activated by cleavage, a common mechanism for most protease zymogen activations. Although this appears to be true for the executioner caspases, recent research points to a distinct activation mechanism for the initiator caspases that trigger the apoptotic pathways. This mechanism is proximity-induced dimerization without cleavage, and its elucidation has led to the revision of concepts of feedback regulation of apoptosis.

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