Calpain activates caspase-3 during UV-induced neuronal death but only calpain is necessary for death

Adrian T. McCollum, Payman Nasr, Steven Estus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


While caspases have been strongly implicated in delayed neuronal death in a variety of experimental paradigms, other proteases such as calpain can also contribute to neuronal death. To evaluate the relative roles of caspase and calpain, we used a model system wherein UV treatment induced moderate or severe delayed cortical neuronal death, as quantified by propidium iodide and calcein AM. UV treatment led to increases in both caspase and calpain activation. Calpain inhibitor III (MDL-28170) reduced caspase activation, suggesting that caspase activation was mediated by calpain. Calpain contributed to neuronal death, as indicated by strong neuroprotection provided by calpain inhibitor III, calpeptin, or Ca2+-free medium. In contrast, caspase inhibitors were not neuroprotective. These results suggest that UV neurotoxicity is mediated by a loss of Ca2+ homeostasis which leads to a calpain-dependent, caspase-independent cell death. That calpain, but not caspase, may mediate death in instances involving the activation of both proteases may have relevance to other neuronal death models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1208-1220
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium
  • Neuroprotection
  • Protease
  • Spectrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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