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

  • Cristina Muñoz-Pinedo
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 738)


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.


Programme Cell Death Death Receptor Adapter Molecule Autophagic Cell Death Cell Death Differ 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Landes Bioscience and Springer Science+Business Media 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Muñoz-Pinedo
    • 1
  1. 1.Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL)L’HospitaletBarcelonaSpain

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