Caspases are a family of cysteine proteases that can be divided into the apoptotic and inflammatory caspase subfamilies. Unlike the apoptotic caspases, members of the inflammatory subfamily are generally not involved in cell death but are associated with the immune response to microbial pathogens (reviewed in 1 and 2). Members of this subfamily include caspase-1, -4, -5, and -12 and can activate proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β and IL-18 (3,4). Although phylogenetically similar to this subfamily, Caspase-2 is thought to be involved in stress-induced apoptosis (5). Caspase-2 has two major isoforms; overexpression on the long form results in apoptosis while that of the short form suppresses cell death (6).
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