Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved process used by multicellular organisms to developmentally regulate cell number or to eliminate cells that are potentially detrimental to the organism. The large diversity of regulators of apoptosis in mammalian cells and their numerous interactions complicate the analysis of their individual functions, particularly in development. The remarkable conservation of apoptotic mechanisms across species has allowed the genetic pathways of apoptosis determined in lower species, such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, to act as models for understanding the biology of apoptosis in mammalian cells. Though many components of the apoptotic pathway are conserved between species, the use of additional model organisms has revealed several important differences and supports the use of model organisms in deciphering complex biological processes such as apoptosis.
- © 2003 The Biochemical Society