- The caspases are a family of proteases responsible for carrying out the cell death process. In a living cell, these proteases are kept inactive by proteins on the mitochondrial cell surface from the BcL-2 family. When a cell is exposed to cell death signals such as ischemia, chemotherapy or radiation, BcL-2 function is blocked and caspase activators initiate the cell death cascade.
Definition from: NCI Thesaurus via Unified Medical Language System at the National Library of Medicine
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.