Death in the balance: Alternative participation of the caspase-2 and -9 pathways in neuronal death induced by nerve growth factor deprivation

C. M. Troy, S. A. Rabacchi, J. B. Hohl, James M Angelastro, L. A. Greene, M. L. Shelanski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Scopus citations


The data presented here demonstrate that sympathetic neurons have the potential to activate two alternative caspase-dependent pathways either of which is capable of mediating death induced by NGF deprivation and that these neurons have the potential to switch from one pathway to the other. The presence of these two alternative pathways to trophic factor deprivation-induced death may have implications for ensuring the correct development of the nervous system. In wild-type neurons, a caspase-2-dependent pathway is required for death, and a caspase-9-dependent pathway appears to be suppressed by endogenous inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs). In contrast, for caspase-2-null neurons, death is dependent on the caspase-9 pathway. The mechanism underlying the shift is the result of a threefold compensatory elevation of caspase-9 expression and a doubling of levels of direct TAP binding protein with low pl/second mitochondria-derived activator of caspase, an IAP inhibitor, both at the mRNA and protein levels. These findings resolve seemingly discrepant findings regarding the roles of various caspases after NGF deprivation and raise a cautionary note regarding the interpretation of findings with caspase-null animals. The choice of the death-mediating caspase pathway in the sympathetic neurons is thus dependent on the regulated relative expression of components of the pathways including those of caspases, IAPS, and IAP inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5007-5016
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2001
Externally publishedYes



  • Caspase-2
  • Caspase-9
  • Caspases
  • DIABLO/Smac
  • IAPS
  • Neuronal cell death
  • Sympathetic neurons
  • Trophic factor deprivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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