Cell death in parasitic protozoa: regulated or incidental?

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013 Jan;11(1):58-66. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2929. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


Apoptosis and other types of regulated cell death have been defined as fundamental processes in plant and animal development, but the occurrence of, and possible roles for, regulated cell death in parasitic protozoa remain controversial. A key problem has been the difficulty in reconciling the presence of apparent morphological markers of apoptosis and the notable absence of some of the key executioners functioning in higher eukaryotes. Here, we review the evidence for regulated cell death pathways in selected parasitic protozoa and propose that cell death in these organisms be classified into just two primary types: necrosis and incidental death. It is our opinion that dedicated molecular machinery required for the initiation and execution of regulated cell death has yet to be convincingly identified.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Leishmania / genetics
  • Leishmania / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Parasites / genetics
  • Parasites / physiology*
  • Plasmodium / genetics
  • Plasmodium / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma / genetics
  • Trypanosoma / physiology*