In plants most instances of programmed cell death (PCD) occur in a number of related, or neighbouring, cells in specific tissues. However, recent research with plant cell cultures has demonstrated that PCD can be induced in single cells. The uniformity, accessibility and reduced complexity of cell cultures make them ideal research tools to investigate the regulation of PCD in plants. PCD has now been induced in cell cultures from a wide range of species including many of the so-called model species. We will discuss the establishment of cell cultures, the fractionation of single cells and isolation of protoplasts, and consider the characteristic features of PCD in cultured cells. We will review the wide range of methods to induce cell death in cell cultures ranging from abiotic stress, absence of survival signals, manipulation of signal pathway intermediates, through the induction of defence-related PCD and developmentally induced cell death.