Exploring the prime site in caspases as a novel chemical strategy for understanding the mechanisms of cell death: a proof of concept study on necroptosis in cancer cells

Cell Death Differ. 2020 Feb;27(2):451-465. doi: 10.1038/s41418-019-0364-z. Epub 2019 Jun 17.


Caspases participate in regulated cell death mechanisms and are divided into apoptotic and proinflammatory caspases. The main problem in identifying the unique role of a particular caspase in the mechanisms of regulated cell death is their overlapping substrate specificity; caspases recognize and hydrolyze similar peptide substrates. Most studies focus on examining the non-prime sites of the caspases, yet there is a need for novel and more precise chemical tools to identify the molecular participants and mechanisms of programmed cell death pathways. Therefore, we developed an innovative chemical approach that examines the prime area of the caspase active sites. This method permits the agile parallel solid-phase synthesis of caspase inhibitors with a high yield and purity. Using synthesized compounds we have shown the similarities and differences in the prime area of the caspase active site and, as a proof of concept, we demonstrated the exclusive role of caspase-8 in necroptosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites / drug effects
  • Caspase Inhibitors / chemical synthesis
  • Caspase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Caspase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Caspases / chemistry
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases