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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2005;71:225-61.

Cell death and organ development in plants.

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  • 1School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff United Kingdom CF10 3TL.


Programmed cell death (PCD) is an important feature of plant development; however, the mechanisms responsible for its regulation in plants are far less well understood than those operating in animals. In this review data from a wide variety of plant PCD systems is analyzed to compare what is known about the underlying mechanisms. Although senescence is clearly an important part of plant development, only what is known about PCD during senescence is dealt with here. In each PCD system the extracellular and intracellular signals triggering PCD are considered and both cytological and molecular data are discussed to determine whether a unique model for plant PCD can be derived. In the majority of cases reviewed, PCD is accompanied by the formation of a large vacuole, which ruptures to release hydrolytic enzymes that degrade the cell contents, although this model is clearly not universal. DNA degradation and the activation of proteases is also common to most plant PCD systems, where they have been studied; however, breakdown of DNA into nucleosomal units (DNA laddering) is not observed in all systems. Caspase-like activity has also been reported in several systems, but the extent to which it is a necessary feature of all plant PCD has not yet been established. The trigger for tonoplast rupture is not fully understood, although active oxygen species (AOS) have been implicated in several systems. In two systems, self incompatibility and tapetal breakdown as a result of cytoplasmic male sterility, there is convincing evidence for the involvement of mitochondria including release of cytochrome c. However, in other systems, the role of the mitochondrion is not clear-cut. How cells surrounding the cell undergoing PCD protect themselves against death is also discussed as well as whether there is a link between the eventual fate of the cell corpse and the mechanism of its death.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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