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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • Caenorhabditis elegans;
  • dopamine;
  • excitotoxicity;
  • hypoxia;
  • necrosis;
  • neurodegeneration;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • polyglutamine proteins

Abstract

The simple nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans has been instrumental in deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying apoptosis. Beyond apoptosis, several paradigms of non-apoptotic cell death, either genetically or extrinsically triggered, have also been described in C. elegans. Remarkably, non-apoptotic cell death in worms and pathological cell death in humans share numerous key features and mechanistic aspects. Such commonalities suggest that similarly to apoptosis, non-apoptotic cell death mechanisms are also conserved, and render the worm a useful organism, in which to model and dissect human pathologies. Indeed, the genetic malleability and the sophisticated molecular tools available for C. elegans have contributed decisively to advance our understanding of non-apoptotic cell death. Here, we review the literature on the various types of non-apoptotic cell death in C. elegans and discuss the implications, relevant to pathological conditions in humans. Developmental Dynamics 239:1337–1351, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.