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Trends Parasitol. 2010 Oct;26(10):477-83. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Programmed cell death in unicellular parasites: a prerequisite for sustained infection?

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University of Ulm, Germany.


The detection of markers typical for metazoan programmed cell death (PCD) in diverse protozoan parasites raised a debate about the evolution of PCD processes and its impact on the biology of single-celled parasites. By applying the unified criteria recently developed for metazoan cell death, the conclusion is made that cell death in protozoan parasites also occurs in a programmed fashion. Several molecules or pathways which regulate PCD in higher eukaryotes have been implicated in the death of unicellular parasites. Furthermore, we emphasize that PCD enables the regulation of parasite densities in distinct host compartments and aids in avoiding inflammatory responses, thereby facilitating a sustained infection. We therefore propose that PCD pathways might represent ideal targets to combat protozoan parasites by their own means.

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