PerspectiveCell Biology

Aspasing Out Metacaspases and Caspases: Proteases of Many Trades

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Science Signaling  14 Dec 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 152, pp. pe48
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3152pe48

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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.

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