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Physiol Mol Biol Plants. 2012 Jan;18(1):1-9. doi: 10.1007/s12298-011-0093-3. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Lysigenous aerenchyma formation involves non-apoptotic programmed cell death in rice (Oryza sativa L.) roots.

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  • 1Division of Plant Physiology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, 110012 India.


In waterlogged soil, deficiency of oxygen triggers development of aerenchyma in roots which facilitates gas diffusion between roots and the aerial environment. However, in contrast to other monocots, roots of rice (Oryza sativa L.) constitutively form aerenchyma even in aerobic conditions. The formation of cortical aerenchyma in roots is thought to occur by either lysigeny or schizogeny. Schizogenous aerenchyma is developed without cortical cell death. However, lysigenous gas-spaces are formed as a consequence of senescence of specific cells in primary cortex followed by their death due to autolysis. In the last stage of aerenchyma formation, a 'spoked wheel' arrangement is observed in the cortical region of root. Ultrastructural studies show that cell death is constitutive and no characteristic cell structural differentiation takes place in the dying cells with respect to surrounding cells. Cell collapse initiation occurs in the center of the cortical tissues which are characterized by shorter with radically enlarged diameter. Then, cell death proceeds by acidification of cytoplasm followed by rupturing of plasma membrane, loss of cellular contents and cell wall degradation, while cells nuclei remain intact. Dying cells releases a signal through symplast which initiates cell death in neighboring cells. During early stages, middle lamella-degenerating enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum which are transported through dictyosome and discharged through plasmalemma beneath the cell wall. In rice several features of root aerenchyma formation are analogous to a gene regulated developmental process called programmed cell death (PCD), for instance, specific cortical cell death, obligate production of aerenchyma under environmental stresses and early changes in nuclear structure which includes clumping of chromatin, fragmentation, disruption of nuclear membrane and apparent engulfment by the vacuole. These processes are followed by crenulation of plasma membrane, formation of electron-lucent regions in the cytoplasm, tonoplast disintegration, organellar swelling and disruption, loss of cytoplasmic contents, and collapse of cell. Many processes in lysing cells are structural features of apoptosis, but certain characteristics of apoptosis i.e., pycnosis of the nucleus, plasma membrane blebbing, and apoptotic bodies formation are still lacking and thus classified as non-apoptotic PCD. This review article, describes most recent observations alike to PCD involved in aerenchyma formation and their systematic distributions in rice roots.


Apoptosis; Cell death; Hypoxia; Lysigeny; Programmed cell death; Regulation; Rice

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