Caspases and kinases in a death grip

Cell. 2009 Sep 4;138(5):838-54. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.08.021.


The complex process of apoptosis is orchestrated by caspases, a family of cysteine proteases with unique substrate specificities. Accumulating evidence suggests that cell death pathways are finely tuned by multiple signaling events, including direct phosphorylation of caspases, whereas kinases are often substrates of active caspases. Importantly, caspase-mediated cleavage of kinases can terminate prosurvival signaling or generate proapoptotic peptide fragments that help to execute the death program and facilitate packaging of the dying cells. Here, we review caspases as kinase substrates and kinases as caspase substrates and discuss how the balance between cell survival and cell death can be shifted through crosstalk between these two enzyme families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Humans
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism


  • Phosphotransferases
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • Caspases