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EMBO J. 1997 May 1;16(9):2271-81.

Multiple species of CPP32 and Mch2 are the major active caspases present in apoptotic cells.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY 11724, USA.


The activity of ICE-like proteases or caspases is essential for apoptosis. Multiple caspases participate in apoptosis in mammalian cells but how many caspases are involved and what is their relative contribution to cell death is poorly understood. To identify caspases activated in apoptotic cells, we developed an approach to simultaneously detect multiple active caspases. Using tumor cells as a model, we have found that CPP32 (caspase 3) and Mch2 (caspase 6) are the major active caspases in apoptotic cells, and are activated in response to distinct apoptosis-inducing stimuli and in all cell lines analyzed. Both CPP32 and Mch2 are present in apoptotic cells as multiple active species. In a given cell line these species remained the same irrespective of the apoptotic stimulus used. However, the species of CPP32 and Mch2 detected varied between cell lines, indicating differences in caspase processing. The strategy described here is widely applicable to identify active caspases involved in apoptosis.

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