, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 317-332

Receptor-Mediated Choreography of Life and Death

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The cytokine tumor necrosis factor was originally identified as a protein that kills tumor cells. So far, 18 distinct members of this family have been identified. All of them regulate cell survival, proliferation, differentiation, and cell death, also called apoptosis. The apoptosis induced by TNF, and other members of the family, for example, FasL, VEGI, and TRAIL is mediated through death receptors. The apoptotic signals by these cytokines are transduced by eight different death domain- (DD) containing receptors (TNFR1, also called DR1; Fas, also called DR2; DR3, DR4, DR5, DR6, NGFR, and EDAR). The intracellular portion of all these receptors contains a region approximately 80 amino acids long referred to as the “death domain.” Upon activation by its ligand, the DD recruits various proteins that mediate both death and proliferation of the cells. These proteins in turn recruit other proteins via their DDs or death effector domains. The actual destruction of the cell, however, is accomplished by serial activation of a family of proteases referred to as caspases. Cell death is negatively regulated by a family of proteins that includes decoy receptors, silencer of DD, sentrin, cellular FLICE inhibitory protein, cellular inhibitors of apoptosis, and survivin. This review is an attempt to describe how these negative and positive players of cell death perform a harmonious dance with each other.