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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • caspase signaling;
  • cell differentiation;
  • cell migration and shaping;
  • cell proliferation

The caspases are a family of cysteine proteases that function as central regulators of cell death. Recent investigations in Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila, and mice indicate that caspases are essential not only in controlling the number of cells involved in sculpting or deleting structures in developing animals, but also in dynamic cell processes such as cell-fate determination, compensatory proliferation of neighboring cells, and actin cytoskeleton reorganization, in a non-apoptotic context during development. This review focuses primarily on caspase functions involving their enzymatic activity.