Live and let die: the untold story of caspases

The evolutionarily conserved proteases referred to as caspases have been studied over the years for being the major regulators of cell death via apoptosis. However, recent investigations are starting to highlight their key role in the regulation of other basic cellular tasks without causing cell death (e.g. cell proliferation, cell differentiation and cell signalling). Although the regulation and function of caspases during apoptosis is well characterised their non-apoptotic roles are yet poorly understood. The research efforts of my group are focused on shedding light into these fundamental biological problems by using Drosophila and mammalian cellular models. Our findings illustrate the highly tissue-specific and instrumental role of caspases in the regulation of stem cell properties and tumour microenvironment. This data can decisively contribute not only to change our current understanding of caspase biology but also the origin/course of multiple diseases, including cancer. Beyond the biological interest, in the long-term, our findings could be also relevant from a therapeutic perspective. (