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Cellular Self-Destruct Program Has Deep Roots Throughout Evolution, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 17, 2014 08:13 AM EDT

Within animals some cells are fated to die from the triggering of an elaborate cell death program, known as apoptosis. Now a study is offering a new explanation on the evolution of caspase-8, a key cell death initiator that was first identified in humans. 

 Researchers performed one of the most extensive evolutionary analysis of the Casp8 protein and found that Casp8 activity arose very early (more than 500 MYA), and is universally conserved throughout evolution. 

"It is of great significance that the programmed cell death system is established in more simpler animals," said lead researcher professor Sakamaki, in the press release.

In addition, they were able to substitute Casp8 proteins from non-mammalian examples and trigger the same cell death pathways when placed into cultured mammalian cell experiments using a killing assay, demonstrating its universal functionality in evolution, the press release added. 

Researchers also demonstrated that key protein interactions between Casp8 and another called FADD were also observed across the animal kingdom.

"In mammals, the cells producing a death ligand and expressing death receptor (and FADD/casp8) are different, suggesting that cell-cell communication is required for this vital phenomenon," Sakamaki added. 

The study was provided by Oxford University Press. 

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