Apoptosis (programmed cell death) is a physiological process used to eliminate superfluous, damaged, infected, or aged cells in multicellular organisms. During apoptosis the cellular architecture is dismantled from within in a highly controlled fashion. Members of the caspase family of cysteine proteases are responsible for the destructive phase of apoptosis. One major pathway to caspase activation involves the formation of a multisubunit protease activation complex called the apoptosome. The apoptosome is assembled in response to signals that provoke mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization and the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol. Recent studies indicate that the apoptosome is a wheel-like structure consisting of seven molecules of Apaf-1 and a similar number of caspase-9 dimers. Knowledge of the structure of the apoptosome will likely lead to the design of therapeutic modulators of apoptosis.
- Apoptotic Protease-Activating Factor 1
- Caspase 9
- Cytochrome c Group/physiology
- Deoxyadenine Nucleotides/metabolism
- Enzyme Activation
- Models, Molecular