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Cell Death Differ. 1997 Dec;4(8):649-61.

Programmed cell death during plant growth and development.

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Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0327, USA.


This review describes programmed cell death as it signifies the terminal differentiation of cells in anthers, xylem, the suspensor and senescing leaves and petals. Also described are cell suicide programs initiated by stress (e.g., hypoxia-induced aerenchyma formation) and those that depend on communication between neighboring cells, as observed for incompatible pollen tubes, the suspensor and synergids in some species. Although certain elements of apoptosis are detectable during some plant programmed cell death processes, the participation of autolytic and perhaps autophagic mechanisms of cell killing during aerenchyma formation, tracheary element differentiation, suspensor degeneration and senescence support the conclusion that nonapoptotic programmed cell death pathways are essential to normal plant growth and development. Heterophagic elimination of dead cells, a prominent feature of animal apoptosis, is not evident in plants. Rather autolysis and autophagy appear to govern the elimination of cells during plant cell suicide.

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