A very common and the best understood of the mechanisms of physiological cell death is apoptosis, resulting from the activation, through either of two primary pathways, of site-specific proteases called caspases. There are, however, many other routes to cell death, prominently including autophagy and proteasomal degradation of critical constituents of cells. These routes are frequently seen in experimental situations in which initiator or effector caspases are inhibited or blocked through genetic means, but they are also encountered during normal physiological and pathological processes. Most frequently, autophagic or proteasomal degradation is used to eliminate massive cytoplasm of very large cells, especially post-mitotic cells, and these pathways are prominent even though caspase genes, messages, and pro-enzymes are found in the cells. These forms of cell death are fully physiological and not simply a default pathway for a defective cell; and they are distinct from necrosis. We do not yet understand the extent to which the pathways are linked, what mechanisms trigger the caspase-independent deaths, and how the choices are made.
Current Opinion in Cell Biology – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2002
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