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Cell Death Differ. 2005 Jul;12(7):796-804.

Multiple death pathways in retina-derived 661W cells following growth factor deprivation: crosstalk between caspases and calpains.

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Cell Development and Disease Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry, Biosciences Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


During development of the mammalian retina, neurons that do not succeed in establishing functional synaptic connections are eliminated by apoptosis, allowing the formation of a finely tuned network. Growth factors play a crucial role in controlling the balance between apoptosis and survival signals not only at developmental stages but also in long-term preservation of retinal functions. In the present work, we explore the apoptotic mechanisms triggered by growth factor deprivation of retina-derived 661W cells. Under serum starvation conditions, these cone photoreceptors underwent cell death with participation of caspase-9, -3 and -12. Interestingly, inhibition of caspases did not prevent apoptosis but only resulted in a temporary delay. We show m-calpain activation in parallel with caspases, indicating that more than one execution pathway is available to cone photoreceptors. Moreover, crosstalk of the caspase and calpain pathways was detected, suggesting a loop that may act to amplify the apoptotic cascade.

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