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Trends Cell Biol. 2004 Apr;14(4):184-93.

Death without caspases, caspases without death.

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The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Apoptosis is a conserved cell-death process displaying characteristic morphological and molecular changes including activation of caspase proteases. Recent work challenges the accepted roles of these proteases. New investigations in mice and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans suggest that there could be caspase-independent pathways leading to cell death. In addition, another type of cell death displaying autophagic features might depend on caspases. Recent studies also indicate that caspase activation does not always lead to cell death and, instead, might be important for cell differentiation. Here, we review recent evidence for both the expanded roles of caspases and the existence of caspase-independent cell-death processes. We suggest that cellular context plays an important role in defining the consequences of caspase activation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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