Various functions of caspases in hematopoiesis

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2009 Jan 1;14:2358-71. doi: 10.2741/3383.


The role of cysteine proteases of the caspase family in apoptosis is well defined. Some caspases were initially shown to be involved in cytokine maturation along inflammatory response. In the recent years, several other non apoptotic functions of caspases were identified. In hematopoietic cells, caspases play a role in specific pathways of differentiation (erythropoiesis, differentiation of monocytes into macrophages, formation of proplatelets by megakaryocytes). These enzymes also play a non-apoptotic and complex role in regulating the maturation and proliferation of specific lymphocytes. Lastly, the apoptotic functions of caspases regulate the life span of several but not all blood cell types. The present review summarizes the current knowledge in these different functions. We show that the nature of involved enzymes, the pathways leading to their activation and the specificity of their cellular target proteins varies strongly from a cell type to another. We indicate also that, in most situations, specific Bcl-2-related proteins are involved in the control of caspase activation. Lastly, we discuss the deregulation of these pathways in hematopoietic diseases, including those in which an excess in caspase activation leads to cell death and those in which a default in caspase activation could block cell differentiation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Cells / enzymology
  • Caspases / chemistry
  • Caspases / classification
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Humans


  • Caspases