International review of cell and molecular biology. Volume 332
Although caspase-2 is a highly conserved protease that has received a lot of research attention, consensus about its roles and the molecular mechanisms that underpin them has been elusive. Recent improvements to our understanding of the activities of caspase-2 have been facilitated by the development and refinement of techniques allowing identification of cellular processes instigated by this caspase. Following DNA damage, caspase-2 can be activated in a molecular complex called the "PIDDosome"; however, other stimuli provoke caspase-2-dependent activities that do not appear to involve this complex. Further research is needed into the mechanisms that activate caspase-2, and the substrates that it cleaves to accomplish its functions. Apart from DNA damage, caspase-2 has also been implicated in responses to other cellular stresses including oxidative damage, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and aberrant mitotic signaling. Caspase-2 sensitized animals fed diets high in fat and sugar to glucose intolerance and liver disease, so drugs that target this protease may be useful to prevent or treat metabolic conditions. Caspase-2 loss enhanced the survival of retinal ganglion cells following optic nerve damage, prompting hope that caspase-2 inhibitors may help treat optic nerve injuries. Caspase-2 predisposed animals to neuroblastoma but tended to provide protection against oncogene-driven cancers. Intriguingly, caspase-2 facilitated host cell death following viral or bacterial infection, raising the possibility that its evolutionary retention may reflect its ability to induce defensive apoptosis following intracellular infection.