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Cell Death Differ. 2002 Aug;9(8):807-17.

A ligand-receptor pair that triggers a non-apoptotic form of programmed cell death.

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  • 1Buck Institute for Age Research, 8001 Redwood Boulevard, Novato, CA 94945, USA.


Several receptors that mediate apoptosis have been identified, such as Fas and tumor necrosis factor receptor I. Studies of the signal transduction pathways utilized by these receptors have played an important role in the understanding of apoptosis. Here we report the first ligand-receptor pair-the neuropeptide substance P and its receptor, neurokinin-1 receptor (NK(1)R)-that mediates an alternative, non-apoptotic form of programmed cell death. This pair is widely distributed in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and has been implicated in pain mediation and depression, among other effects. Here we demonstrate that substance P induces a non-apoptotic form of programmed cell death in hippocampal, striatal, and cortical neurons. This cell death requires gene expression, displays a non-apoptotic morphology, and is independent of caspase activation. The same form of cell death is induced by substance P in NK(1)R-transfected human embryonic kidney cells. These results argue that NK(1)R activates a death pathway different than apoptosis, and provide a signal transduction system by which to study an alternative, non-apoptotic cell death program.

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