Mechanisms of caspase activation

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2003 Dec;15(6):725-31. doi: 10.1016/


The core effectors of apoptosis encompass proteolytic enzymes of the caspase family, which reside as latent precursors in most nucleated metazoan cells. A majority of studies on apoptosis are based on the assumption that caspase precursors are activated by cleavage, a common mechanism for most protease zymogen activations. Although this appears to be true for the executioner caspases, recent research points to a distinct activation mechanism for the initiator caspases that trigger the apoptotic pathways. This mechanism is proximity-induced dimerization without cleavage, and its elucidation has led to the revision of concepts of feedback regulation of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase 10
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 7
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological


  • CASP3 protein, human
  • CASP7 protein, human
  • CASP8 protein, human
  • Caspase 10
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 7
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspases
  • CASP10 protein, human