Caspase-3 is one of the major caspases operating in apoptosis, cleaving and inactivating a number of molecules and largely contributing to the apoptotic phenotype and the dismantling of the apoptoting cell.
The opening reading frame of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) caspase-3 has 281 amino acids. The complete sequence of caspase-3 shows a very close homology to the correspondent sequence from other vertebrates, in particularly with that of Takifugu rubripes and Oryzias latipes, with 87.7 and 87.9% of similarity, respectively. Furthermore, the sea bass caspase-3 sequence retains the motifs that are functionally important, such as the pentapeptide active-site motif (QACRG) and the putative cleavage sites at the aspartic acids. In the sea bass genome, the caspase-3 gene exists as a single copy gene and is organised in six exons and five introns.
A very low expression of caspase-3 was detected by RT-PCR in various organs of non-stimulated sea bass, with slightly higher levels in thymus and heart and was increased in head kidneys of Photobacterium damselae ssp. piscicida infected sea bass. This increased expression was accompanied by the occurrence of high numbers of apoptoting cells with activated caspase-3.