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PLoS Genet. 2006 Oct;2(10):e135.

Bacterial programmed cell death and multicellular behavior in bacteria.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.


Traditionally, programmed cell death (PCD) is associated with eukaryotic multicellular organisms. However, recently, PCD systems have also been observed in bacteria. Here we review recent research on two kinds of genetic programs that promote bacterial cell death. The first is mediated by mazEF, a toxin-antitoxin module found in the chromosomes of many kinds of bacteria, and mainly studied in Escherichia coli. The second program is found in Bacillus subtilis, in which the skf and sdp operons mediate the death of a subpopulation of sporulating bacterial cells. We relate these two bacterial PCD systems to the ways in which bacterial populations resemble multicellular organisms.

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