Mukherjee A, Williams DW (2017) More alive than dead: non-apoptotic roles for caspases in neuronal development, plasticity and disease.Cell Death Differ 24: 1411-1421
Nervous systems are arguably the most fascinating and complex structures in the known universe. How they are built, changed by experience and then degenerate are some of the biggest questions in biology. Regressive phenomena, such as neuron pruning and programmed cell death, have a key role in the building and maintenance of the nervous systems. Both of these cellular mechanisms deploy the caspase family of protease enzymes. In this review, we highlight the non-apoptotic function of caspases during nervous system development, plasticity and disease, particularly focussing on their role in structural remodelling. We have classified pruning as either macropruning, where complete branches are removed, or micropruning, where individual synapses or dendritic spines are eliminated. Finally we discuss open questions and possible future directions within the field.