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#116657 - 11/26/03 06:02 PM etymology of "caspase"  
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Alex Williams Offline
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I am doing a presentation at work on apoptosis, a process of programmed cell death. Various enzymes and molecules are involved in the the many processes of apoptosis, but one family of enzymes that plays a central role are the caspases. I was wondering if this word has any particular etymology, although it may have none as many scientific words are, sadly, jargon devoid of etymology. I have been unable to unearth the meaning myself and I beg your assistance. TIA.


#116658 - 11/26/03 06:33 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Dear Alex, to show my command of the obvious, most enzymes end in "-ase", so only problem is where does the 'casp-" come from. Trouble is that could be a sort of acronym for GOK (God only knows what). Nobody on the board has your background for figuring this one out. (doc_comfort hasn't posted for a long time, and wofahulicodoc surely can't find the time to read about cell biology).

Here's a URL about it, all Greek to me:
http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/cdd/journal/v8/n4/abs/4400864a.html&dynoptions=doi1069875278

Only eager beavers will want to look at the above URL, and they know how to copy and paste it into Address box
Here's another URL, maybe a few clues
http://www.sfu.ca/mbb/mbb/faculty/pio/pio.html

#116659 - 11/26/03 09:00 PM caspase < capsase?  
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Jenet Offline
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A few chemical names are arbitrary rearrangements of other names. One example is ribose < arabinose < gum arabic. (Trivia: did you know DNA and RNA are derived from the name Arab?)

As casp- isn't a Latin root perhaps caspase is from alteration of capsase, something that alters the capsid (protein coat, < capsa, a container)?


#116660 - 11/26/03 09:07 PM Re: caspase < capsase?  
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Interesting, Jenet. Any connection, I wonder, to capsaicin?


#116661 - 11/26/03 10:52 PM Re: caspase < capsase?  
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Jenet Offline
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Um, my dictionary says capsicum (> capsaicin) might be from capsa, i.e. because the pepper is in a case or capsule.

Hm, Perseus Lewis & Short doesn't list capsa -- must be Late Latin -- they have capsus (i) wagon-body or coach-body, or (ii) pen, enclosure; and capsella a small box or coffer.

I just thought the caps- idea was possible, because breaking down capsids could well be akin to whatever is needed to break up cells in apoptosis.


#116662 - 11/27/03 03:59 AM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Alex, off the top of my head, it seems to me that Caspase could be named for the specific cleaving pattern at the Aspartate (Asp). Don't think I have read this anywhere though; just came to me as a possibility since you asked. The 'c' might be short for cytoplasmic or is it cysteine? You could check with the Biochem/Cell Biology folk. As regards etymology, I have always thought that whoever names enzymes, tries hard to make them memory-friendly. Etymologically, they invariably can be traced back to the specific biochemical reaction they catalyse. At least all the names that are rushing through my head seem to - phosphorylase, reductase, transferase, ligase, carboxylase...all have rather strong etymological clues don't they? Hope this helps.

did you know DNA and RNA are derived from the name Arab?)
Hi Jenet! First time I am hearing of this; always thought of it as a simple deoxyribonucleic acid. Do tell us more; am very curious.



#116663 - 11/27/03 08:26 AM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Already given most of it: but the ribo- of words like ribonucleic is from a sugar ribose, which is said to be (if Chambers is to be trusted on this) an alteration of arabinose, which is a sugar that comes from arabin, the essential substance of gum arabic.


#116664 - 11/27/03 03:04 PM ribose/gum arabic  
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Jenet, that is great! gum arabic is one of those 'things' that i know about, (its a common ingredient in many confections, and i have even seen it listed as an ingredient to add to foods{ie, in a recipe}, but i have never seen it for sale!)

isn't it wonderful how words turn and turn again, and reappear in all sorts of wonderful ways!

what a wonderful food/chemistry word to learn... thank you!


#116665 - 11/28/03 10:47 AM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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rav Offline
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'caspase' means 'cysteine aspartase'. now, the question is where the 'asparta-' comes from


#116666 - 11/28/03 01:02 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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where the 'asparta-' comes from

Asparagus


#116667 - 11/28/03 06:03 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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It is well known to students of religion that some religious experiences produce physical sensations which cannot be accounted for otherwise. Sometimes people, like Wesley, feel a strange warmth after a religious epiphany. In other instances, one may smell the odor of roses after such an experience. The origin of 'cysteine aspartase' is one such experience. When one visits the Vatican and sees the ceiling painted by Michelangelo, one often walks away with a vague sense of flavour on one's mouth, which is known as the 'cysteine aspartase'.




#116668 - 11/28/03 07:34 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Father Steve! Shame on you!! [vainly trying to muffle giggles e]


#116669 - 11/29/03 03:37 AM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Alex Williams Offline
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Given that cysteine is an amino acid that contains sulfur, that punishing aftertase wouldn't be very pleasant.


#116670 - 11/29/03 04:58 AM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Hmmm. Well, trust the Vatican to come up smelling of roses ...


#116671 - 11/29/03 02:43 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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RE:'caspase' means 'cysteine aspartase'. now, the question is where the 'asparta-' comes from

well isn't asparta one of the amino acids found in equal (the blue stuff artifical sugar?)

the amino acids that are combined to make equal include phenylananine (which is labeled and has a warning) and other amino acids.. (some of them come from milk proteins, and some come from fruits (banana's, as i recall)and Aspartame is a brand name for the new chemical 'soup'-- presumable based on some sort of asparta--(if not 'cysteine aspartase')


#116672 - 11/29/03 03:38 PM Re: etymology of "caspase"  
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Alex Williams Offline
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Well having looked into it further since I originally asked, and having been directed by several replies on the subject, it appears that at least one of the myriad caspase enzymes cleaves proteins at certains aspartate and cysteine residues. In fact I found this explanation of the name: CASPASES: Cysteine Aspartate Specific ProteASEs.
(see http://makeashorterlink.com/?L58432BA6)

Aspartame is a sweetener that goes by the trade name Nutrasweet that contains the amino acid aspartate.


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