Abstract

Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is an essential physiological process that plays a critical role in development and tissue homeostasis. The progress of apoptosis is regulated in an orderly way by a series of signal cascades under certain circumstances. The caspase-cascade system plays vital roles in the induction, transduction and amplification of intracellular apoptotic signals. Caspases, closely associated with apoptosis, are aspartate-specific cysteine proteases and members of the interleukin-1 β-converting enzyme family. The activation and function of caspases, involved in the delicate caspase-cascade system, are regulated by various kinds of molecules, such as the inhibitor of apoptosis protein, Bcl-2 family proteins, calpain, and Ca2+. Based on the latest research, the members of the caspase family, caspase-cascade system and caspase-regulating molecules involved in apoptosis are reviewed.