Mitochondrial control of caspase-dependent and -independent cell death
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Mitochondria control whether a cell lives or dies. The role mitochondria play in deciding the fate of a cell was first identified in the mid-1990s, because mitochondria-enriched fractions were found to be necessary for activation of death proteases, the caspases, in a cell-free model of apoptotic cell death. Mitochondrial involvement in apoptosis was subsequently shown to be regulated by Bcl-2, a protein that was known to contribute to cancer in specific circumstances. The important role of mitochondria in promoting caspase activation has therefore been a major focus of apoptosis research; however, it is also clear that mitochondria contribute to cell death by caspase-independent mechanisms. In this review, we will highlight recent findings and discuss the mechanism underlying the mitochondrial control of apoptosis and caspase-independent cell death.