Luis Alberto Baena

Deciphering the emerging functions of caspases

Most of the scientific focus on the evolutionarily conserved family of caspases has been aimed at understanding their role as key regulators of cell death. However, recent evidence suggests the involvement of these proteins in alternative cellular functions such as cell proliferation, cell differentiation and cell migration. Deregulated caspase activity in these non-apoptotic contexts could lead to the development of multiple diseases including cancer.

Caspase activation during apoptosis in the Drosophila eye (red) and sensory organ (green).

Suggested links between caspase activation in non-apoptotic contexts and disease.

Our goal is to offer a comprehensive characterization of caspase activity and define the molecular mechanisms of its regulation, in normal and tumour cells without apparent signs of cell death. To answer this fundamental biological question, we combine a wide variety of experimental approaches such as modern genetic engineering technologies, high-resolution imaging, biochemistry and proteomics with the powerful repertoire of genetic tools developed in Drosophila.

The laboratory also aims to generate suitable platforms for identifying novel small molecules with caspase-regulatory activity. In the long term, further validation of these molecules in mammalian models holds the potential to improve the current spectrum of therapeutic interventions against cancer and other caspase-sustained diseases.

Relevant Publications

Alexandre C, Baena-Lopez LA, Vincent JP.

Nature 505: 180-5.

Baena-Lopez LA, Alexandre C, Mitchell A, Pasakarnis L, Vincent JP.

Development 140: 4818-25.

Baena-Lopez LA, Franch-Marro X, Vincent JP.

Sci Signal 2: ra60.

Baena-López LA, Baonza A, García-Bellido A.

Curr Biol 15: 1640-4.

Research Areas