Apoptosis: controlled demolition at the cellular level

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Mar;9(3):231-41. doi: 10.1038/nrm2312.


Apoptosis is characterized by a series of dramatic perturbations to the cellular architecture that contribute not only to cell death, but also prepare cells for removal by phagocytes and prevent unwanted immune responses. Much of what happens during the demolition phase of apoptosis is orchestrated by members of the caspase family of cysteine proteases. These proteases target several hundred proteins for restricted proteolysis in a controlled manner that minimizes damage and disruption to neighbouring cells and avoids the release of immunostimulatory molecules.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / genetics
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Phagocytes / cytology


  • Caspases