Caspases and immunity in a deadly grip

Trends Immunol. 2013 Feb;34(2):41-9. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Oct 12.


Caspases are crucial for the execution of apoptotic cell death. However, caspase-1, the first identified mammalian caspase, was not discovered in the context of apoptosis, but rather as an enzyme that processes the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1β. More recently, additional nonapoptotic roles of apoptotic caspases have been uncovered. For example, caspase-8 can counteract necroptosis, an inflammatory mode of cell death induced by receptor-interacting protein (RIP)3. Here, we explore how caspases and their associated proteins and substrates mediate multiple cellular immune processes that extend beyond cell death. We focus on caspases-1, -8 and -11 because of the growing excitement in considering these caspases through the lens of regulators of immunity rather than primarily as arbiters of cell fate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caspases / immunology
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammation / enzymology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Mice


  • Caspases