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Adv Parasitol. 2001;49:133-61.

Apoptosis and parasitism: from the parasite to the host immune response.

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Instituto de Biofisica Carlos Chagas Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death (PCD), plays a central role in normal tissue development as well as in the pathogenesis of different diseases. PCD is responsible for the non-inflammatory physiological elimination of potentially harmful or unnecessary cells during embryogenesis, and for the proper functioning of continuous cell renewal systems in adult organisms. Maturation of the immune system and the specific immune response are examples of situations where PCD plays important roles. This review discusses the importance of apoptosis in two fundamental elements of a host-parasite interaction: the parasite (Section 1), and the host's immune response (Section 2). Section 1 discusses questions raised by the description of apoptosis in unicellular eukaryotes, such as the evolutionary origin of the molecular components of PCD, its role in the emergence and maintenance of parasitism, and the constraints of a multicellular organization for the proper operation of a cell death programme. The proposal is that PCD can occur in any situation where living cells display features of an organized network which operates through interactions within themselves and/or with elements of their environment. The possibility is also discussed that evolutionary relics of a complete cell death system may operate in unicellular parasites with functions other than inducing cell death. Section 2 reviews data on the mechanisms of host-cell PCD and the consequences of this phenomenon in host defence and pathogenesis. Infectious agents, from viruses to parasites, can either delay or induce apoptosis of different types of host cells. Apoptosis following lymphocyte polyclonal activation and stimulation of peripheral T lymphocytes, as a result of the engagement of specific counter-receptor systems, is of special interest for defining host immunocompetence and mechanisms of immunopathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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