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. 2018 Jul 31;9(4):e00948-18.
doi: 10.1128/mBio.00948-18.

Do Fungi Undergo Apoptosis-Like Programmed Cell Death?

Free PMC article

Do Fungi Undergo Apoptosis-Like Programmed Cell Death?

J Marie Hardwick. mBio. .
Free PMC article


This question of whether fungi undergo apoptosis-like programmed cell death can be separated into two questions. One question is about applying the term "apoptosis" to fungi, and the other is a more challenging question of whether fungi have evolved mechanisms that inflict self-injury. The answers to both questions depend on the definitions applied to "apoptosis" and "programmed cell death." Considering how these and other cell death terms originated and are currently defined for animals, some confusion arises when the terms are applied to fungi. While it is difficult to defend the concept of fungal apoptosis, the more interesting issue is whether fungi will eventually be found to encode programmed or extemporaneous self-destructive processes, as suggested by intriguing new findings.

Keywords: MLKL; apoptosis; cell death; cell-autonomous; fungi; mycoptosis; necroptosis; pathogenic fungi; programmed cell death; yeast.


Three broad categories of cell death can be distinguished based on the level of participation by the dying cell. (A) Cell death that occurs without any contributions from the cell that dies is analogous to death by assault or murder (i.e., death is not dependent on a gene or other component originating in the cell destined to die), or, potentially, a cell could expire (like a car running out gas), though enthusiasm for the latter idea has waned in recent years. (B and C) A gene product or other component of the dying cell can contribute to its demise (gene-dependent, cell-autonomous death) in two conceptually distinct processes: accidental/extemporaneous cell death occurring via mechanisms not selected by evolution (B) and programmed cell death occurring via mechanisms selected during evolution (C). Cell death in all three categories (A to C) can be induced by conditions/factors (hammer, toxin, death receptor ligand, growth factor withdrawal, irradiation, sunlight, etc.) external to the cell that dies, while only cell death in categories B and C can also be triggered by events inside the cell, for example, events analogous to those involving the centrifuge rotor (B) or inherent errors in replication (C). These definitions differ somewhat from the NCCD definitions (39).

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