PloS one

Expression and activation of caspase-6 in human fetal and adult tissues.

PMID 24265764


Caspase-6 is an effector caspase that has not been investigated thoroughly despite the fact that Caspase-6 is strongly activated in Alzheimer disease brains. To understand the full physiological impact of Caspase-6 in humans, we investigated Caspase-6 expression. We performed western blot analyses to detect the pro-Caspase-6 and its active p20 subunit in fetal and adult lung, kidney, brain, spleen, muscle, stomach, colon, heart, liver, skin, and adrenals tissues. The levels were semi-quantitated by densitometry. The results show a ubiquitous expression of Caspase-6 in most fetal tissues with the lowest levels in the brain and the highest levels in the gastrointestinal system. Caspase-6 active p20 subunits were only detected in fetal stomach. Immunohistochemical analysis of a human fetal embryo showed active Caspase-6 positive apoptotic cells in the dorsal root ganglion, liver, lung, kidney, ovary, skeletal muscle and the intestine. In the adult tissues, the levels of Caspase-6 were lower than in fetal tissues but remained high in the colon, stomach, lung, kidney and liver. Immunohistological analyses revealed that active Caspase-6 was abundant in goblet cells and epithelial cells sloughing off the intestinal lining of the adult colon. These results suggest that Caspase-6 is likely important in most tissues during early development but is less involved in adult tissues. The low levels of Caspase-6 in fetal and adult brain indicate that increased expression as observed in Alzheimer Disease is a pathological condition. Lastly, the high levels of Caspase-6 in the gastrointestinal system indicate a potential specific function of Caspase-6 in these tissues.