Double agents of cell death: novel emerging functions of apoptotic regulators

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Apoptosis is a highly regulated form of cell death that is required for many homeostatic and pathological processes. Recently, alternative cell death pathways have emerged whose regulation is dependent on proteins with canonical functions in apoptosis. Dysregulation of apoptotic signaling frequently underlies the pathogenesis of many cancers, reinforcing the need to develop therapies that initiate alternative cell death processes. This review outlines the convergence points between apoptosis and other death pathways with the purpose of identifying novel strategies for the treatment of apoptosis-refractory cancers. Apoptosis proteins can play key roles in the initiation, regulation, and execution of nonapoptotic death processes that include necroptosis, autophagy, pyroptosis, mPTP-mediated necrosis, and ferroptosis. Notably, recent evidence illustrates that dying cells can exhibit biochemical and molecular characteristics of more than one different type of regulated cell death. Thus, this review highlights the amazing complexity and interconnectivity of cell death processes and also raises the idea that a top-to-bottom approach to describing cell death mechanisms may be inadequate for fully understanding the means by which cells die.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2647-2663
Number of pages17
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • BCL-2
  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • cancer
  • caspase
  • ferroptosis
  • mPTP
  • necroptosis
  • pyroptosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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