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A new study by UAlberta biologists shows the first evidence of apoptosis, or programmed cell death in algae. The outcomes have broad-reaching implications, from the development of targeted antibiotics to the production of biofuels in industry.
"It sounds odd, but programmed cell death is important to all large organisms. For any cells to differentiate, they have to be able to kill cells. For example, if you injure yourself, your scab is formed with these killed-off cells," explained Rebecca Case, associate professor in UAlberta's Department of Biological Sciences. "Here at the single-cell level, we've found that small molecules are passed from bacteria into the host algae. By doing that, the bacteria are able to tell the algae to kill itself."
Cell - Death - Apoptosis - Organisms - Animals
Until now, programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis, was thought to only occur in large, multicellular organisms such as animals and humans. This research shows that bacteria that live on single-cellular algae can cause programmed cell death. "It is the first documentation of true apoptosis via bacterial pathogens in microorganisms like algae," said Case, who conducted the work with Ph.D. graduate Anna Bramucci.
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