Molecular genetics of cell death in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

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In C. elegans, cell death can be readily studied at the cellular, genetic, and molecular levels. Two types of death have been characterized in this nematode: (1) programmed cell death, which occurs as a normal component in development; and (2) pathological cell death which occurs aberrantly as a consequence of mutation. Analysis of mutations that disrupt programmed cell death in various ways has defined a genetic pathway for programmed cell death which includes genes that perform such functions as the determination of which cells die, the execution of cell death, the engulfment of cell corpses, and the digestion of DNA from dead cells. Molecular analysis is providing insightinto the nature of the molecules that function in these aspects of programmed cell death. Characterization of some genes that mutate to induce abnormal cell death has defined a novel gene family called degenerins that encode putative membrane proteins. Dominant alleles of at least two degenerin genes, mec‐4 and deg‐1, can cause cellular swelling and late onset neurodegeneration of specific groups of cells. © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1327-1351
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • apoptosis
  • dominant disorder
  • genetic pathway
  • necrosis
  • neurodegeneration
  • programmed cell death
  • vacuolization

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