Journal Article

Programmed cell death in plants: distinguishing between different modes

Theresa J. Reape, Elizabeth M. Molony and Paul F. McCabe

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 59, issue 3, pages 435-444
Published in print February 2008 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:
Programmed cell death in plants: distinguishing between different modes

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Programmed cell death (PCD) in plants is a crucial component of development and defence mechanisms. In animals, different types of cell death (apoptosis, autophagy, and necrosis) have been distinguished morphologically and discussed in these morphological terms. PCD is largely used to describe the processes of apoptosis and autophagy (although some use PCD and apoptosis interchangeably) while necrosis is generally described as a chaotic and uncontrolled mode of death. In plants, the term PCD is widely used to describe most instances of death observed. At present, there is a vast array of plant cell culture models and developmental systems being studied by different research groups and it is clear from what is described in this mass of literature that, as with animals, there does not appear to be just one type of PCD in plants. It is fundamentally important to be able to distinguish between different types of cell death for several reasons. For example, it is clear that, in cell culture systems, the window of time in which ‘PCD’ is studied by different groups varies hugely and this can have profound effects on the interpretation of data and complicates attempts to compare different researcher's data. In addition, different types of PCD will probably have different regulators and modes of death. For this reason, in plant cell cultures an apoptotic-like PCD (AL-PCD) has been identified that is fairly rapid and results in a distinct corpse morphology which is visible 4–6 h after release of cytochrome c and other apoptogenic proteins. This type of morphology, distinct from autophagy and from necrosis, has also been observed in examples of plant development. In this review, our model system and how it is used to distinguish specifically between AL-PCD and necrosis will be discussed. The different types of PCD observed in plants will also be discussed and the importance of distinguishing between different forms of cell death will be highlighted.

Keywords: Apoptosis; apoptosis-like programmed cell death (AL-PCD); Arabidopsis; autophagy; mitochondria; necrosis; programmed cell death (PCD)

Journal Article.  6256 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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