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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2005 Aug;8(4):404-8.

Vacuolar processing enzyme: an executor of plant cell death.

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Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-850, Japan.


Apoptotic cell death in animals is regulated by cysteine proteinases called caspases. Recently, vacuolar processing enzyme (VPE) was identified as a plant caspase. VPE deficiency prevents cell death during hypersensitive response and cell death of limited cell layers at the early stage of embryogenesis. Because plants do not have macrophages, dying cells must degrade their materials by themselves. VPE plays an essential role in the regulation of the lytic system of plants during the processes of defense and development. VPE is localized in the vacuoles, unlike animal caspases, which are localized in the cytosol. Thus, plants might have evolved a regulated cellular suicide strategy that, unlike animal apoptosis, is mediated by VPE and the vacuoles.

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