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Bioessays. 1997 Sep;19(9):827-32.

Origin of eukaryotic programmed cell death: a consequence of aerobic metabolism?

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Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Department of Neurobiochemistry, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


A marked feature of eukaryotic programmed cell death is an early drop in mitochondrial transmembrane potential. This results from the opening of permeability transition pores, which are composed of adenine nucleotide translocators and mitochondrial porins. The latter share striking similarities with bacterial porins, including down-regulation of their pore size by purine nucleotides), suggesting a common origin. The porins of some invasive bacteria play a crucial role during their accommodation inside the host cell and this coexistence resembles the endosymbiotic origin of mitochondria. The above observations suggest that early in eukaryotic evolution, former invaders may have used porin-type channels to enter their host and to induce its death when the levels of its cytoplasmic purine nucleotides were dropped. The appearance of adenosine nucleotide translocators in the primitive eukaryotes, which permitted usage of the oxidative metabolism of the invaders, provided the basis for the permeability transition phenomena, now linked to the apoptotic process. Bcl-2-type molecules, being able to modulate the permeability transition pores by interaction with adenosine nucleotide translocators, may have played an essential role in conferring a means of controlling apoptosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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