Self and Nonself

Volume 738 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 124-143

Signaling Pathways that Regulate Life and Cell Death: Evolution of Apoptosis in the Context of Self-Defense

  • Cristina Muñoz-PinedoAffiliated withBellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), L’Hospitalet

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Programmed Cell Death is essential for the life cycle of many organisms. Cell death in multicellular organisms can occur as a consequence of massive damage (necrosis) or in a controlled form, through engagement of diverse biochemical programs. The best well known form of programmed cell death is apoptosis. Apoptosis occurs in animals as a consequence of a variety of stimuli including stress and social signals and it plays essential roles in morphogenesis and immune defense. The machinery of apoptosis is well conserved among animals and it is composed of caspases (the proteases which execute cell death), adapter proteins (caspase activators), Bcl-2 family proteins and Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins (IAPs). We will describe in this chapter the main apoptotic pathways in animals: the extrinsic (death receptor-mediated), the intrinsic/mitochondrial and the Granzyme B pathway. Other forms of non-apoptotic Programmed Cell Death which occur in animals will also be discussed. We will summarize the current knowledge about apoptotic-like and other forms of cell death in other organisms such as plants and protists.

Additionally, we will discuss the hypothesis that apoptosis originated as part of a host defense mechanism. We will explore the similarities between the protein complexes which mediate apoptosis (apoptosomes) and complexes involved in immunity: inflammasomes. Additional functions of apoptotic proteins related to immune function will be summarized, in an effort to explore the evolutionary origins of cell death.