Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase: killer or conspirator? The 'suicide hypothesis' revisited

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2002 Mar;23(3):122-9. doi: 10.1016/S0165-6147(00)01902-7.


Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP-1) is an abundant nuclear enzyme involved in DNA repair. The therapeutic efficacy of drugs that inhibit PARP-1 in various disorders underscores the active role of PARP-1 in cell death. Although it is well established that excessive DNA damage causes PARP-1 hyperactivation, which leads to cell death by energy failure, a new mechanistic perspective is emerging following the identification of various PARPs that exhibit different features and subcellular distributions. Studies demonstrating the significant role of PARP-1 in the regulation of gene transcription have further increased the intricacy of poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation in the control of cell homeostasis and challenge the notion that energy collapse is the sole mechanism by which poly(ADP-ribose) formation contributes to cell death. The hypothesis that PARPs might regulate cell fate as essential modulators of death and survival transcriptional programs will be discussed with particular focus on the regulation of transcription factors such as nuclear factor kappaB and p53. (An animation depicting the involvement of PARP-1 in the 'suicide hypothesis' is available at http://archive.bmn.com/supp/tips/tips2303a.html)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • Transcription Factors
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases