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It is now well established that the caspases, a family of cysteine proteases, play a key role in apoptosis. Although overexpressing each of the caspases in cells triggered apoptosis, the precise role and contribution of individual caspases are still unclear. Caspase-1, the first caspase discovered, was initially implicated in mammalian apoptosis because of its similarity to the gene product ced-3. Using whole cells as well as an in vitro system to study apoptosis, the role of caspase-1 in Fas-mediated apoptosis in Jurkat T cells was examined in greater detail. Using various peptide-based caspase inhibitors, our results showed that N-acetyl-Tyr-Val-Ala-Asp chloromethyl ketone and benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp (OMe) fluoromethyl ketone efficiently blocked Fas-mediated apoptosis in Jurkat T cells, whereas N-acetyl-Tyr-Val-Ala-Asp aldehyde, which is more specific for caspase-1, had little effect. Cell lysates derived from anti-Fas-stimulated cells, which readily induced apoptotic nuclei morphology and DNA fragmentation in isolated thymocyte nuclei, had no caspase-1 activity using proIL-1beta as a substrate. Time-course studies showed no caspase-1 activity during the activation of apoptosis in Jurkat cells by agonistic Fas antibodies. Furthermore, no pro-caspase-1 protein nor activated form of the protein was detected in normal or apoptotic Jurkat cells. In contrast, both caspase-2 and caspase-3 were readily detected as proenzymes in control cells and their activated forms were detected in apoptotic cells. Incubation of recombinant active caspase-1 with control cell lysates did not activate the apoptotic cascade as shown by the lack of detectable apoptotic nuclei promoting activity using isolated nuclei as substrate. However, under similar conditions proIL-1beta was readily processed into the mature cytokine, indicating that the recombinant caspase-1 remained active in the presence of control cell lysates. Taken together our results demonstrate that caspase-1 is not required for the induction of apoptosis in Jurkat T cells mediated by the Fas antigen.

Original publication




Journal article


Experimental cell research

Publication Date





491 - 500


Center for Mechanisms of Human Toxicity, Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, Leicester University, Hodgkin Building, Lancaster Road, Leicester, LE1 9HN, United Kingdom.


Jurkat Cells, Humans, Caspases, Caspase 1, Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones, Oligopeptides, Protein Precursors, Interleukin-1, Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors, Apoptosis, Protein Processing, Post-Translational, Enzyme Activation, Caspase 3, Caspase 2, Caspase Inhibitors, fas Receptor