Apoptosis, the most abundant form of programmed cell death during metazoan development, is executed by proteases called caspases. Efforts of many research groups have led to a deep understanding of how caspases are activated and regulated during apoptotic cell death. However, a constantly growing body of research has uncovered new caspase-dependent non-lethal cellular processes (CDPs), of which the molecular regulatory and executional mechanisms are much less understood. CDPs have been reported to modulate many basic cellular processes, such as signaling, proliferation, differentiation, remodeling and neuronal plasticity in a large variety of cell types and organisms. Unsurprisingly, this functional diversity of CDPs might trigger and sustain a wide range of diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Furthermore, it is perceived that caspase-regulating molecules could be a promising avenue for developing new therapeutic strategies. Given the recent explosion of reports and the interest in CDPs and non-lethal functions of other apoptotic proteins (e.g. the BCL-2 family), uncovering the molecular mechanisms of caspase regulation and function in non-apoptotic cellular scenarios will be of high significance for fully understanding caspase biology, as well as the potential origin of many pathologies, including cancer.
This conference will be the first meeting dedicated to the topic of “non-apoptotic roles of apoptotic proteins”, grouping scientists from diverse disciplines working on this subject. We hope that it will also create a sense of community, among which exciting new findings and future directions could be discussed and communicated.