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EMBO J. 2011 Mar 16;30(6):1173-83. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.14. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

The Arabidopsis peptide kiss of death is an inducer of programmed cell death.

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Laboratoire Génome et Développement des Plantes, CNRS-UMR 5096, Université de Perpignan, Perpignan, France.


Programmed cell death (PCD) has a key role in defence and development of all multicellular organisms. In plants, there is a large gap in our knowledge of the molecular machinery involved at the various stages of PCD, especially the early steps. Here, we identify kiss of death (KOD) encoding a 25-amino-acid peptide that activates a PCD pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana. Two mutant alleles of KOD exhibited a reduced PCD of the suspensor, a single file of cells that support embryo development, and a reduced PCD of root hairs after a 55°C heat shock. KOD expression was found to be inducible by biotic and abiotic stresses. Furthermore, KOD expression was sufficient to cause death in leaves or seedlings and to activate caspase-like activities. In addition, KOD-induced PCD required light in leaves and was repressed by the PCD-suppressor genes AtBax inhibitor 1 and p35. KOD expression resulted in depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane, placing KOD above mitochondria dysfunction, an early step in plant PCD. A KOD∷GFP fusion, however, localized in the cytosol of cells and not mitochondria.

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