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Plant Physiol. 1995 Jun;108(2):489-493.

In Situ Detection of nDNA Fragmentation during the Differentiation of Tracheary Elements in Higher Plants.

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AgBiotech Center and Department of Plant Science, P.O. Box 759, Waksman Institute, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854.


Programmed cell death (pcd) is thought to occur during the autolysis of xylem vessels. Although several ultrastructural aspects of this differentiation process have been characterized, certain key aspects of this process remain unsolved. Here we demonstrate in pea (Pisum sativum) that nuclei of vessel elements undergoing pcd contain fragmented nDNA. This finding may provide evidence for the activation of a DNA degradation mechanism prior to the final disruption of the nucleus that occurs during the autolysis stage of this differentiation process. In situ detection of DNA fragmentation in nuclei of vessel elements undergoing pcd may therefore suggest that this death process involves the activation of a mechanism for DNA degradation, similar to that activated during apoptosis in animal cells. In addition, this differentiation process may serve as a useful positive control for the in situ detection of pcd in other developmental pathways and during the hypersensitive response of plants to avirulent pathogens.

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