Programmed cell death and the immune system

Nat Rev Immunol. 2017 May;17(5):333-340. doi: 10.1038/nri.2016.153. Epub 2017 Feb 6.


More than 50 years ago, cells were observed to die during insect development via a process that was named 'programmed cell death'. Later, a similar cell death process was found to occur in humans, and the process was renamed 'apoptosis'. In the 1990s, a number of apoptosis-regulating molecules were identified, and apoptosis was found to have essential roles in the immune system. In this Timeline article, we highlight the key events that have demonstrated the importance of programmed cell death processes, including apoptosis and programmed necrosis, in the immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology