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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2008 Mar;72(1):85-109, table of contents. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00030-07.

Molecular control of bacterial death and lysis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Pathology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 668 S. 41st St., PYH4014, Omaha, NE 68198-6245, USA.


Although the phenomenon of bacterial cell death and lysis has been studied for over 100 years, the contribution of these important processes to bacterial physiology and development has only recently been recognized. Contemporary study of cell death and lysis in a number of different bacteria has revealed that these processes, once thought of as being passive and unregulated, are actually governed by highly complex regulatory systems. An emerging paradigm in this field suggests that, analogous to programmed cell death in eukaryotes, regulated cell death and lysis in bacteria play an important role in both developmental processes, such as competence and biofilm development, and the elimination of damaged cells, such as those irreversibly injured by environmental or antibiotic stress. Further study in this exciting field of bacterial research may provide new insight into the potential evolutionary link between control of cell death in bacteria and programmed cell death (apoptosis) in eukaryotes.

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