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Cell. 1998 Aug 7;94(3):325-37.

Reduced apoptosis and cytochrome c-mediated caspase activation in mice lacking caspase 9.

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Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Caspases are essential components of the mammalian cell death machinery. Here we test the hypothesis that Caspase 9 (Casp9) is a critical upstream activator of caspases through gene targeting in mice. The majority of Casp9 knockout mice die perinatally with a markedly enlarged and malformed cerebrum caused by reduced apoptosis during brain development. Casp9 deletion prevents activation of Casp3 in embryonic brains in vivo, and Casp9-deficient thymocytes show resistance to a subset of apoptotic stimuli, including absence of Casp3-like cleavage and delayed DNA fragmentation. Moreover, the cytochrome c-mediated cleavage of Casp3 is absent in the cytosolic extracts of Casp9-deficient cells but is restored after addition of in vitro-translated Casp9. Together, these results indicate that Casp9 is a critical upstream activator of the caspase cascade in vivo.

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