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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Jan;1824(1):22-33. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2011.08.016. Epub 2011 Sep 3.

Lysosomes and lysosomal cathepsins in cell death.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Structural Biology, J. Stefan Institute, Jamova, Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Lysosomes are the key degradative compartments of the cell. Lysosomal cathepsins, which are enclosed in the lysosomes, help to maintain the homeostasis of the cell's metabolism by participating in the degradation of heterophagic and autophagic material. Following the targeted lysosomal membrane's destabilization, the cathepsins can be released into the cytosol and initiate the lysosomal pathway of apoptosis through the cleavage of Bid and the degradation of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 homologues. Cathepsins can also amplify the apoptotic signaling, when the lysosomal membranes are destabilized at a later stage of apoptosis, initiated by other stimuli. However, the functional integrity of the lysosomal compartment during apoptosis enables efficient autophagy, which can counteract apoptosis by providing the energy source and by disposing the damaged mitochondria, which generate the ROS. Impairing autophagy by disabling the lysosome function is being investigated as an adjuvant therapeutic approach to sensitize cells to apoptosis-inducing agents. Destabilization of the lysosomal membranes by the lysosomotropic detergents seems to be a promising strategy in this context as it would not only disable autophagy, but also promote apoptosis through the initiation of the lysosomal pathway. In contrast, the impaired autophagy and lysosomal degradation linked with the increased oxidative stress underlie degenerative changes in the aging neurons. This further suggests that lysosomes and lysosomal cathepsins have a dual role in cell death. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Proteolysis 50 years after the discovery of lysosome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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