Proteolysis is central to the systematic cellular degradation that occurs during apoptosis. Predominantly, caspases have been studied in this regard. However. increasing evidence suggests that certain serine proteases may also play a significant role in apoptosis. Not only are these serine proteases involved in apoptosis signalling pathways independently, but they may also interact with more classical mediators of apoptosis such as the caspases or Bcl-2 family proteins. Isolation of apoptosis-associated serine proteases and the use of specific inhibitors have helped to shed light on potential pathways in which they are involved. Despite the recent developments in the field, knowledge regarding the role of serine proteases in apoptosis remains limited, but it is clear that investigations are gathering momentum and such studies may herald a new and exciting departure in apoptosis research. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.