Molecular Biology Tutorials

Apoptosis: The Molecular Mechanism of Programmed Cell Death (Short Notes)


Programmed Cell Death Short Notes

Apoptosis: The Programmed Cell Death

What is Apoptosis? Why apoptosis is known as the ‘Programmed Cell Death’?

The total number of cells in an organ or organism is fundamentally fixed to a specific range in all multicellular organisms. In every multi-cellular organism, the cell number is effectively controlled by two strategies- (a) by regulating cell Division and (b) by regulating cell Death. If cells are no longer needed, they commit suicide (self-destruction) by activating an intracellular death signaling programme. Thus, this death process is known as ‘Programmed Cell Death’. This programmed cell death pathway is called Apoptosis.

The term apoptosis in Greek literally mean ‘falling off’. Just like the old leaves ‘falloff’ from the trees without affecting the life of the plant, the apoptotic cell death will not interfere with the functioning of the organ and organism. The most striking feature of apoptosis is that if a cell undergoes the programmed cell death, the neighboring cells are not at all damaged. Apoptotic death of a cell and its subsequent phagocytosis by a neighboring cell or by a macrophage allow the organic components of the death cell to be effectively recycled.

Learn more: Difference between Apoptosis and Necrosis

The apoptosis is better known as the ‘Programmed Cell Death’. It is a natural well-orchestrated, well sequenced and timely executed chain of events leads to the death of a cell.

What are the characteristics of Apoptotic Cell Death?

An apoptotic cell death is characterized by:

Ø  Shrinkage of the cell

Ø  Shrinkage of the nucleus

Ø  Loss of adhesion to the neighboring cells

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Molecular Biology Tutorials

Difference between Necrosis and Apoptosis: A Comparison Table


necrosis vs apoptosis

Apoptosis vs Necrosis
(Similarities and Differences)

Apoptosis and Necrosis are two types of cell death occur in organisms. The cells undergo death when the cell death becomes necessary as a part of developmental process or they fail to adapt to injuries. Both these types of cell deaths differ in their initial cause and progression of the cell death pathway.

Apoptosis definition (programmed cell death): a physiological process by which unwanted or useless cells are eliminated during the development and other normal biological processes. Often found during tissue homeostasis, embryogenesis, immunological reactions and development of nervous systems. During apoptotic cell death, the cells undergo some characteristic events such as chromatin condensation, nuclear and cytoplasmic aggregation and partitions of cytoplasm and nucleus into membrane bound vesicles called apoptotic bodies containing ribosomes and mitochondria. Apoptotic bodies are recognized and phagocytized by either by macrophages or adjacent cells and thus no inflammatory response are elicited during apoptotic cell death.

Necrosis definition: (accidental cell death) a pathological process occurs when the cells are exposed to serious physical or chemical insults. Occur during pathological infections such as bacterial and fungal infections, hypothermia and hypoxia conditions. The cell and cellular organelles swell and ruptures to release the entire cell content including lysosomal enzymes into the extracellular fluid.  Due to this, necrotic cell deaths are always associated with severe inflammatory response in the surrounding tissues.

The current post describes the similarities and difference between apoptotic and necrotic cell death with a comparison table.

Similarities between Apoptosis and Necrosis

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