Apoptotic death sensor: an organelle's alter ego?

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2001 Jun;22(6):306-15. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(00)01718-1.


Caspases are intracellular cysteine proteases that are primarily responsible for the stereotypic morphological and biochemical changes that are associated with apoptosis. Caspases are often activated by the apoptotic protease-activating factor 1 (APAF-1) apoptosome, a complex that is formed following mitochondrial release of cytochrome c in response to many death-inducing stimuli. Both pro- and anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family members regulate apoptosis, primarily by their effects on mitochondria, whereas many inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) regulate apoptosis by directly inhibiting distinct caspases. Exposure of cells to chemicals and radiation, as well as loss of trophic stimuli, perturb cellular homeostasis and, depending on the type of cellular stress, particular or multiple organelles appear to 'sense' the damage and signal the cell to undergo apoptosis by stimulating the formation of unique and/or common caspase-activating complexes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspases / physiology*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / physiology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / physiology*
  • Genes, p53 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Organelles / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Caspases