Vacuolar programmed cell death (PCD) is indispensable for plant development and is accompanied by a dramatic growth of lytic vacuoles, which gradually digest cytoplasmic content leading to self-clearance of dying cells. Our recent data demonstrate that vacuolar PCD critically requires autophagy and its upstream regulator, a caspase-fold protease metacaspase. Furthermore, both components lie downstream of the point of no return in the cell-death pathway. Here we consider the possibilities that i) autophagy could have both cytotoxic and cytoprotective roles in the vacuolar PCD, and ii) metacaspase could augment autophagic flux through targeting an as yet unknown autophagy repressor.
Keywords: autophagy; embryo-suspensor; metacaspase; necrosis; plants; vacuolar cell death.