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Cellular and Molecular Biology Letters

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Current concepts in apoptosis: The physiological suicide program revisited

1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA

2Department of Neurology, Scott and White Clinic, The Texas A & M University Health Science Center, College of Medicine, Temple, Texas, USA

© 2006 University of Wrocław, Poland. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Citation Information: Cellular and Molecular Biology Letters. Volume 11, Issue 4, Pages 506–525, ISSN (Online) 1689-1392, DOI: 10.2478/s11658-006-0041-3, September 2006

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Apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD), involves a complex network of biochemical pathways that normally ensure a homeostatic balance between cellular proliferation and turnover in nearly all tissues. Apoptosis is essential for the body, as its deregulation can lead to several diseases. It plays a major role in a variety of physiological events, including embryonic development, tissue renewal, hormone-induced tissue atrophy, removal of inflammatory cells, and the evolution of granulation tissue into scar tissue. It also has an essential role in wound repair. The various cellular and biochemical mechanisms involved in apoptosis are not fully understood. However, there are two major pathways, the extrinsic pathway (receptor-mediated apoptotic pathway) and the intrinsic pathway (mitochondria-mediated apoptotic pathway), which are both well established. The key component in both is the activation of the caspase cascade. Caspases belong to the family of proteases that ultimately, by cleaving a set of proteins, cause disassembly of the cell. Although the caspase-mediated proteolytic cascade represents a central point in the apoptotic response, its initiation is tightly regulated by a variety of other factors. Among them, Bcl-2 family proteins, TNF and p53 play pivotal roles in the regulation of caspase activation and in the regulation of apoptosis. This review summarizes the established concepts in apoptosis as a physiological cell suicide program, highlighting the recent and significant advances in its study.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Programmed cell death; Pathways; Caspases; Bcl-2; p53; TNF; Apaf

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