Caspase-7 was considered to be redundant with caspase-3 because these related cystein proteases share an optimal peptide recognition sequence and have several endogenous protein substrates in common. In addition, both caspases are proteolytically activated by the initiator caspases-8 and -9 during death receptor- and DNA-damage-induced apoptosis, respectively. However, a growing body of biochemical and physiological data indicate that caspase-7 also differs in significant ways from caspase-3. For instance, several substrates are specifically cleaved by caspase-7, but not caspase-3. Moreover, caspase-7 activation requires caspase-1 inflammasomes under inflammatory conditions, while caspase-3 processing proceeds independently of caspase-1. Finally, caspase-7 deficient mice are resistant to endotoxemia, whereas caspase-3 knockout mice are susceptible. These findings suggest that specifically interfering with caspase-7 activation may hold therapeutic value for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory ailments.
Keywords: caspase-7, caspase-3, apoptosis, inflammation