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Int J Parasitol. 2003 Mar;33(3):257-67.

Programmed cell death in trypanosomatids and other unicellular organisms.

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Laboratory of Bacterial, Parasitic and Unconventional Agents, Division of Emerging and Transfusion Transmitted Diseases, OBRR, CBER, US FDA, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


In multicellular organisms, cellular growth and development can be controlled by programmed cell death (PCD), which is defined by a sequence of regulated events. However, PCD is thought to have evolved not only to regulate growth and development in multicellular organisms but also to have a functional role in the biology of unicellular organisms. In protozoan parasites and in other unicellular organisms, features of PCD similar to those in multicellular organisms have been reported, suggesting some commonality in the PCD pathway between unicellular and multicellular organisms. However, more extensive studies are needed to fully characterise the PCD pathway and to define the factors that control PCD in the unicellular organisms. The understanding of the PCD pathway in unicellular organisms could delineate the evolutionary origin of this pathway. Further characterisation of the PCD pathway in the unicellular parasites could provide information regarding their pathogenesis, which could be exploited to target new drugs to limit their growth and treat the disease they cause.

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