Cell Stress-Associated Caspase Activation: Intrinsically Complex?

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Science's STKE  25 Mar 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 175, pp. pe11
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.175.pe11

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Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, involves the activation of the caspases, a family of cysteine proteases that coordinate the process of cellular demolition. In the intrinsic--or mitochondrial--pathway to apoptosis, which is initiated in response to various types of cell stress, the prevailing view is that caspases become activated in a structure called the apoptosome after cytochrome c is released from the mitochondria. However, recent research challenges this view and suggests that one or more caspases are activated before mitochondrial release of cytochrome c and that the apoptosome acts as an amplifier, rather than as an initiator, of apoptosis-associated caspase activation. Here, we critically discuss the evidence in support of the latter view and suggest that revision of the established pathway may be premature.

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