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Apoptosis. 2009 Jan;14(1):1-21. doi: 10.1007/s10495-008-0281-y. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Fish as model systems for the study of vertebrate apoptosis.

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Division of Developmental Immunology, Biocenter, Innsbruck Medical University, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


Apoptosis is a process of pivotal importance for multi-cellular organisms and due to its implication in the development of cancer and degenerative disease it is intensively studied in humans and mammalian model systems. Invertebrate models of apoptosis have been well-studied, especially in C. elegans and D. melanogaster, but as these are evolutionarily distant from mammals the relevance of findings for human research is sometimes limited. Presently, a non-mammalian vertebrate model for studying apoptosis is missing. However, in the past few years an increasing number of studies on cell death in fish have been published and thus new model systems may emerge. This review aims at highlighting the most important of these findings, showing similarities and dissimilarities between fish and mammals, and will suggest topics for future research. In addition, the outstanding usefulness of fish as research models will be pointed out, hoping to spark future research on this exciting, often underrated group of vertebrates.

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