A family of intracellular CYSTEINE ENDOPEPTIDASES that play a role in regulating INFLAMMATION and APOPTOSIS. They specifically cleave peptides at a CYSTEINE amino acid that follows an ASPARTIC ACID residue. Caspases are activated by proteolytic cleavage of a precursor form to yield large and small subunits that form the enzyme. Since the cleavage site within precursors matches the specificity of caspases, sequential activation of precursors by activated caspases can occur.

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