Caspase-8, FADD, and FLIP orchestrate apoptosis in response to death receptor ligation. Mysteriously however, these proteins are also required for normal embryonic development and immune cell proliferation, an observation that has led to their implication in several nonapoptotic processes. While many scenarios have been proposed, recent genetic and biochemical evidence points to unregulated signaling by the receptor-interacting protein kinases-1 (RIPK1) and RIPK3 as the lethal defect in caspase-8-, FADD-, and FLIP-deficient animals and tissues. The RIPKs are known killers, being responsible for a nonapoptotic form of cell death with features similar to necrosis. However, the mechanism by which caspase-8, FADD, and FLIP prevent runaway RIPK activation is unknown, and the signals that trigger these events during development and immune cell activation remain at large. In this review, we will lay out the evidence as it now stands, reinterpreting earlier observations in light of new clues and considering where the investigation might lead.
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