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Reprod Toxicol. 1997 Mar-Jun;11(2-3):377-84.

Genetic control of cellular suicide.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Genetic analysis of programmed cell death in C. elegans has led to the identification of two genes, ced-9, a cell death suppressor, and ced-3, a cell death inducer, that play critical roles in regulating programmed cell death. The ced-9 and ced-3 genes were found to encode proteins that share structural and functional similarities with the mammalian proto-oncogene product Bcl-2 and interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme (ICE), respectively. Multiple members of the Bcl-2 family and the ICE family have been identified in vertebrates. These results suggest that the mechanism of apoptosis in vertebrates may be evolved from a much simpler version of a similar pathway in primitive organisms.

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