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Apoptosis in response to developmental cues and stress stimuli is mediated by caspases that are regulated by the Bcl-2 protein family. Although caspases 2 and 9 have each been proposed as the apical caspase in that pathway, neither is indispensable for the apoptosis of leukocytes or fibroblasts. To investigate whether these caspases share a redundant role in apoptosis initiation, we generated caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) mice. Their overt phenotype, embryonic brain malformation and perinatal lethality mirrored that of caspase-9(-/-) mice but were not exacerbated. Analysis of adult mice reconstituted with caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) hematopoietic cells revealed that the absence of both caspases did not influence hematopoietic development. Furthermore, lymphocytes and fibroblasts lacking both remained sensitive to diverse apoptotic stimuli. Dying caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) lymphocytes displayed multiple hallmarks of caspase-dependent apoptosis, including the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and their demise was antagonized by several caspase inhibitors. These findings suggest that caspases other than caspases 2 and 9 can promote cytochrome c release and initiate Bcl-2-regulated apoptosis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Biol

Publication Date





775 - 780


Animals, Apoptosis, Caspase 2, Caspase 9, Caspases, Cytochromes c, Hematopoiesis, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2