Caspases are cysteine proteases, expressed as inactive precursors, that mediate apoptosis by proteolysis of specific substrates. Caspases have the ability to cleave after aspartic acid residues. There are two classes of caspases involved in apoptosis; initiators (activation by receptor cluster) and effectors (activation by mitochondrial permeability transition). Proapoptotic signals autocatalytically activate initiator caspases, such as Caspase-8 and Caspase-9. Activated initiator caspases then process effector caspases, such as Caspase-3 and Caspase-7, which in turn cause cell collapse.
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