Activation of a Genetic Program for Cell Death

  • Alan Eastman
  • Michael Barry


It has been known for many years that a genetic program exists in multicellular organisms for controlled deletion of unwanted cells. This pathway of cell death is most dramatically evident during metamorphosis and embryonic development but also occurs under many other physiological situations such as differentiation and general cell turnover. This pathway is often called programmed cell death but this name has many connotations which may mislead a true definition of the process. Hence, an alternative name, apoptosis, is often used. This word was derived from the Greek meaning “the falling of leaves from a tree or petals from a flower”.1 This definition implies one part of an organism dying for the sake of the survival of the whole organism. To understand both normal and aberrant activation of apoptosis, it is important to realize that every cell has this genetic program to induce “suicide”, but that the program is normally in a repressed state.


Genetic Program Intracellular Acidification Mouse Thymocyte Dependent Endonuclease Greek Meaning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Eastman
    • 1
  • Michael Barry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyDartmouth Medical SchoolHanover, NHGermany

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