Reassessing apoptosis in plants

Nat Plants. 2017 Oct;3(10):773-779. doi: 10.1038/s41477-017-0020-x. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


Cell death can be driven by a genetically programmed signalling pathway known as programmed cell death (PCD). In plants, PCD occurs during development as well as in response to environmental and biotic stimuli. Our understanding of PCD regulation in plants has advanced significantly over the past two decades; however, the molecular machinery responsible for driving the system remains elusive. Thus, whether conserved PCD regulatory mechanisms include plant apoptosis remains enigmatic. Animal apoptotic regulators, including Bcl-2 family members, have not been identified in plants but expression of such regulators can trigger or suppress plant PCD. Moreover, plants exhibit nearly all of the biochemical and morphological features of apoptosis. One difference between plant and animal PCD is the absence of phagocytosis in plants. Evidence is emerging that the vacuole may be key to removal of unwanted plant cells, and may carry out functions that are analogous to animal phagocytosis. Here, we provide context for the argument that apoptotic-like cell death occurs in plants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Plant Cells*
  • Plants