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Sci. Signal., 14 December 2010
Vol. 3, Issue 152, p. pe48
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3152pe48]


Aspasing Out Metacaspases and Caspases: Proteases of Many Trades

Peter V. Bozhkov1*, Andrei P. Smertenko2, and Boris Zhivotovsky3

1 Department of Plant Biology and Forest Genetics, Uppsala BioCenter, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7080, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden.
2 Integrative Cell Biology Laboratory, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.
3 Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Box 210, SE-17177 Stockholm, Sweden.

Abstract: Execution of programmed cell death (PCD) in nonmetazoan organisms is morphologically different from apoptotic PCD in animals and lacks a number of key molecular components of apoptotic machinery, including caspases. Yet protozoan, fungal, and plant cells exhibit caspase-like proteolytic activities, which increase in a PCD-dependent manner. This poses a question whether nonmetazoan organisms contain structurally dissimilar proteases that functionally substitute for caspases. Putative ancestors of caspases, metacaspases, are candidates for this role; however, their distinct substrate specificity raises doubts. The identification of a common biological target of caspases and metacaspases and previously unknown functions unrelated to cell death of metacaspases provide new food for thought.

* Corresponding author. E-mail, peter.bozhkov{at}

Citation: P. V. Bozhkov, A. P. Smertenko, B. Zhivotovsky, Aspasing Out Metacaspases and Caspases: Proteases of Many Trades. Sci. Signal. 3, pe48 (2010).

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