The Botanical Dance of Death: Programmed Cell Death in Plants

Joanna Kacprzyk, Cara Daly, Paul McCabe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Programmed cell death (PCD) describes a small number of processes that result in a highly controlled, and organised, form of cellular destruction, activated in every part of the plant, throughout its entire life cycle. For example, PCD is a critical component of many vegetative and reproductive developmental processes, senescence programmes, pathogen defence mechanisms and stress responses. Cell destruction can manifest as apoptotic-like, necrotic or autophagic cell death, and these processes are likely to overlap extensively, sharing several regulatory mechanisms. Several of the key PCD regulators and signals have now been revealed, for example, many cell organelles, including mitochondria, chloroplasts, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum and vacuoles have been shown to have a role in controlling PCD activation. Following activation the actual dismantling of the cell appears to involve cell death proteases including those with caspase-like, or metacaspase, activity. This review will examine the current state of knowledge about the regulation of events during plant PCD. We will describe numerous examples of developmental or environmentally induced deaths and outline their potential as model systems for use in PCD research programmes. Similarly, a range of techniques and in vitro model systems that can be used to identify, and quantify, rates of plant PCD are reviewed. These model systems and techniques can be used to identify the underlying signals and events that drive and regulate PCD and ultimately reveal the steps necessary for the botanical dance of death.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Botanical Research
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Programmed cell death
  • Root hairs
  • Autophagy
  • sphingolipids
  • apoptic-like
  • Apoptosis
  • caspase-like


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