Apoptosis and programmed cell death in immunity

Annu Rev Immunol. 1992;10:267-93. doi: 10.1146/annurev.iy.10.040192.001411.


Death of some cells in the mammalian body is clearly programmed. In the immune system there are many examples of programmed cell death, during development of lymphocytes as well as at later stages, after interaction with antigen. Many of these examples display the morphology of apoptosis: They undergo shrinkage and zeiosis, the nucleus collapses, and chromatin is cleaved into nucleosomal fragments. The cell is rapidly recognized by phagocytes and disposed of without releasing its contents. In some but not all cases of apoptosis, new macromolecular synthesis is required. Cytotoxic T cells induce changes in their targets that are morphologically apoptotic. The mechanism of apoptosis is currently under active investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / immunology*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis


  • DNA