Published: 2009-10-11 00:00 | Updated: 2013-11-26 10:29

Cell death occurs in the same way in plants, animals and humans

Research has previously assumed that animals and plants developed different genetic programs for cell death. Now an international constellation of researchers, including research teams from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet, has shown that parts of the genetic programs that determine programmed cell death in plants and animals are actually evolutionarily related and moreover function in a similar way. The findings are published in the latest issue of the he prestigious scientific journal Nature Cell Biology.

Programmed cell deathPhoto: Andrei P Smertenko

For plants and animals, and for humans as well, it is important that cells both can develop and die under controlled forms. The process where cells die under such forms is called programmed cell death. Disruptions of this process can lead to various diseases such as cancer, when too few cells die, or neurological disorders such as Parkinsons, when too many cell die.

The findings are published jointly by research teams at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and the Karolinska Institute, the universities of Durham (UK), Tampere (Finland), and Malaga (Spain) under the direction of Peter Bozhkov, who works at SLU in Uppsala, Sweden. The scientists have performed comparative studies of an evolutionarily conserved protein called TUDOR-SN in cell lines from mice and humans and in the plants norway spruce and mouse-ear cress. In both plant and animal cells that undergo programmed cell death, TUDOR-SN is degraded by specific proteins, so-called proteases.


Jens Sundström, Boris Zhivotovsky, Peter V. Bozhkov et al.

Tudor staphylococcal nuclease is an evolutionarily conserved component of the programmed cell death degradome

Nature Cell Biology, Epub 11 oct 2009, DOI 10.1038/ncb1979