Apoptosis is related to many diseases and induced by a family of cell death receptors and their ligands. Cell death signals are transduced by death domain containing adapter molecules and members of the caspase family of proteases. The mammalian homologues of the key cell death gene CED-4 in C. elegans has been identified recently from human and mouse and designated Apaf1 (for apoptosis protease-activating factor 1) (1,2). Apaf1 binds to cytochrome c (Apaf2) and caspase-9 (Apaf3), which leads to caspase-9 activation. Activated caspase-9 in turn cleaves and activates caspase-3 that is one of the key proteases, being responsible for the proteolytic cleavage of many key proteins in apoptosis (3). Apaf1 can also associate with caspase-4 and caspase-8 (4). Apaf1 is ubiquitously expressed in human tissues (1).
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