Thiol Proteases in Apoptosis (The Ice Family)

Programmed cell death is a genetically-determined pattern of cell death occuring during the development of multi-cellular organisms. This has been best studied in C. elegans, where the origin and fate of every cell in the development of the worm is known. Several mutations have been described which interfere with this pattern and CED-3 has been shown to be due to the absence of a functional thiol protease. A close human homologue was first identified as a processing enzyme required for the maturation of the cytokine interleukin-1 beta. Several other members of this family, the ICE Family, have since been identified and shown to be involved in aspects of cell death and gene regulation. The proenzymes are converted to the active heterodimer by proteolytic cleavage. In some cases this processing is autocatalytic (ICE) and sometimes requires the action of another family member (CP32). Thus, these enzymes most likely participate in protease cascade. In at least one case the result is the amplification of a small signal and subsequent cell death.


  • Known ICE-like Proteases
  • Human Genes
  • NIH grants "cell death protease"
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