PerspectiveCell Biology

A cell death avenue evolved from a life-saving path

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Science  20 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6190, pp. 1341-1342
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256084

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Yeast metacaspases are the ancestral enzymes of caspases that execute cellular suicide (“programmed cell death”) in multicellular organisms. Studies on metacaspase 1 (Mca1) have suggested that single-cell eukaryotes can also commit programmed cell death (1, 2). However, on page 1389 of this issue, Malmgren Hill et al. (3) show that Mca1 has positive rather than negative effects on the life span of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, especially when protein homeostasis is impaired. Mca1 helps to degrade misfolded proteins that accumulate during aging or that are generated by acute stress, and thereby ensures the continuous and healthy generation of daughter cells that are free of insoluble aggregates that otherwise would limit life span.