Apoptosis : mechanisms and relevance in cancer
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Annals of hematology. - Berlin
, p. 627-639
University of Antwerp
Apoptosis or programmed cell death is a process with typical morphological characteristics including plasma membrane blebbing, cell shrinkage, chromatin condensation and fragmentation. A family of cystein-dependent aspartate-directed proteases, called caspases, is responsible for the proteolytic cleavage of cellular proteins leading to the characteristic apoptotic features, e.g. cleavage of caspase-activated DNase resulting in internucleosomal DNA fragmentation. Currently, two pathways for activating caspases have been studied in detail. One starts with ligation of a death ligand to its transmembrane death receptor, followed by recruitment and activation of caspases in the death-inducing signalling complex. The second pathway involves the participation of mitochondria, which release caspase-activating proteins into the cytosol, thereby forming the apoptosome where caspases will bind and become activated. In addition, two other apoptotic pathways are emerging: endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced apoptosis and caspase-independent apoptosis. Naturally occurring cell death plays a critical role in many normal processes like foetal development and tissue homeostasis. Dysregulation of apoptosis contributes to many diseases, including cancer. On the other hand, apoptosis-regulating proteins also provide targets for drug discovery and new approaches to the treatment of cancer.