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Nat Rev Immunol. 2006 Apr;6(4):308-17.

Caspases at the crossroads of immune-cell life and death.

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Immunoregulation Unit, Autoimmunity Branch, NIAMS, National Institutes of Health, Building 10 Room 9N238, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Caspases are responsible for crucial aspects of inflammation and immune-cell death that are disrupted in a number of genetic autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases. The caspase family of proteases can be divided into pro-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory members based on their substrate specificity and participation in separate signalling cascades. However, as discussed here, evidence has emerged over the past few years that a number of the caspases thought to be involved solely in apoptosis also contribute to specific aspects of immune-cell development, activation and differentiation, and can even protect cells from some forms of cell death.

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