Author(s): Brker LE
Patterns of cell death have been divided into apoptosis, which is actively executed by specific proteases, the caspases, and accidental necrosis. However, there is now accumulating evidence indicating that cell death can occur in a programmed fashion but in complete absence and independent of caspase activation. Alternative models of programmed cell death (PCD) have therefore been proposed, including autophagy, paraptosis, mitotic catastrophe, and the descriptive model of apoptosis-like and necrosis-like PCD. Caspase-independent cell death pathways are important safeguard mechanisms to protect the organism against unwanted and potential harmful cells when caspase-mediated routes fail but can also be triggered in response to cytotoxic agents or other death stimuli. As in apoptosis, the mitochondrion can play a key role but also other organelles such as lysosomes and the endoplasmic reticulum have an important function in the release and activation of death factors such as cathepsins, calpains, and other proteases. Here we review the various models of PCD and their death pathways at molecular and organelle level and discuss the relevance of the growing knowledge of caspase-independent cell death pathways for cancer.