Apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD), is a selective process for the removal of unnecessary, infected or transformed cells in various biological systems. As it plays a role in the homeostasis of multicellular organisms, apoptosis is tightly regulated through two principal pathways by a number of regulatory and effector molecules. The intrinsic pathway is characterized by the release of cytochrome c from perturbed mitochondria, the formation of the apoptosome, and activation of effector caspases. The Bcl-2 family of proteins contains both pro- and anti-apoptotic family members that promote or inhibit mitochondrial permeability, respectively. The dysfunction of the mitochondria has been connected to human diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The second pathway for apoptosis is the extrinsic pathway, which is activated by ligand binding to specific cell-surface death receptors and also features the caspase cascade as a central regulator of apoptosis.
Regardless of the pathway that is taken, apoptosis must be carefully regulated to ensure proper growth and development and dysregulation of this complex process can result in a number of disease states. The numerous factors involved in the apoptotic pathways represent targets for investigating and developing therapeutic treatments for a number of diseases such as stroke, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases. To ensure the translation of basic understanding of apoptosis into clinical treatment is successful, it is essential to know that your target is the right target. We offer bioactive small molecules for target identification and validation in apoptosis research; a selection of these research tools is shown below.