Journal of cell science

Caspase-9 has a nonapoptotic function in Xenopus embryonic primitive blood formation.

PMID 28576973


Caspases constitute a family of cysteine proteases centrally involved in programmed cell death, which is an integral part of normal embryonic and fetal development. However, it has become clear that specific caspases also have functions independent of cell death. In order to identify novel apoptotic and nonapoptotic developmental caspase functions, we designed and transgenically integrated novel fluorescent caspase reporter constructs in developing Xenopus embryos and tadpoles. This model organism has an external development, allowing direct and continuous monitoring. These studies uncovered a nonapoptotic role for the initiator caspase-9 in primitive blood formation. Functional experiments further corroborated that caspase-9, but possibly not the executioners caspase-3 and caspase-7, are required for primitive erythropoiesis in the early embryo. These data reveal a novel nonapoptotic function for the initiator caspase-9 and, for the first time, implicate nonapoptotic caspase activity in primitive blood formation.