Caspases are cysteine proteases that play important and well-defined roles in apoptosis and inflammation. Increasing evidence point to alternative functions of caspases where restricted and localized caspase activation within neurons allows for a variety of non-apoptotic and non-inflammatory processes required for brain development and function. In this review, we highlight sublethal caspase functions in axon and dendrite pruning, neurite outgrowth and dendrite branches formation, as well as in long-term depression and synaptic plasticity. Importantly, as non-apoptotic activity of caspases is often confined in space and time in neurons, we also discuss the mechanisms that restrict caspase activity in order to maintain the neuronal networks in a healthy and functional state.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Due to space limitations, we apologize for not including all the papers relevant to this literature. This work was supported by a grant from National Institutes of Health ( GM118331 ) to MD.
- Neurite branching
- Synaptic plasticity