INTRODUCTION (PCD) is a physiological cell death process involved in the selective elimination of unwanted cells (Ellis et al., 1991). In animals, these unwanted cells include those that have served temporary functions, such as tadpole tail cells at metamorphosis; cells that are overproduced, such as vertebrate neurons; cells that are unwanted or present in inappropriate positions, such as cells between the developing digits and MÃ¼llerian duct cells required in females but not males; and cells that die during the process of cell specialization, such as keratinocytes at the surface of the skin (Jacobsen et al., 1997). PCD in specific cell types can also give rise to disease. These cell types include helper T cells, which undergo PCD in AIDS, and selected brain neurons, which die during Alzheimerâs disease, Huntingtonâs disease, Parkinsonâs disease, and Lou Gehrigâs disease (Duke et al., 1996). Thus, PCD plays an important role in cell and tissue homeostasis and specialization, tissue sculpting, and disease. PCD in Caenorhabditis elegans and other animals depends on the induction and action of specific genes that bring about the controlled disassembly of a cell (Wadewitz and Lockshin, 1988; Ellis et al., 1991). This disassembly involves the condensation, shrinkage, and fragmentation
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