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J Neurobiol. 1992 Nov;23(9):1312-26.

Insect muscle as a model for programmed cell death.

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Department of Biology, Morrill Science Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003.


Programmed cell death (PCD) is a fundamental component of development in virtually all animals. Despite the ubiquity of this phenomenon, little is known about what tells a cell to die, and less still about the physiological and molecular mechanisms that bring about death. One system that has proven to be very amenable for the study of PCD is the intersegmental muscle (ISM) of the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta. These giant muscle cells are used during the eclosion (emergence) behavior of the adult moth, and then die during the subsequent 30 h. This review uses the ISMs as a model system to address questions that are basic to any cell death system, including the following: (1) how do cells know when to die; (2) what physiological changes accompany death; (3) what are the molecular mechanisms that mediate death; and (4) do all cells die by the same process? For the ISMs, the trigger for PCD is a decline in the circulating titer of the insect molting hormone, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20-HE). During cell death there are rapid decreases in both the myofibrillar sensitivity to intracellular calcium and the resulting force of fiber contraction. The ability of the ISMs to undergo PCD requires the repression and activation of specific genes. Two of the repressed genes encode actin and myosin. One of the upregulated presumptive cell-death genes encodes polyubiquitin, which appears to play a critical role in the rapid proteolysis that accompanies ISM death.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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