Apoptosis is a highly regulated form of programmed cell death crucial for life and health in metazoan animals. Apoptosis is defined by a set of cytological alterations. The recent discovery of these markers in yeast indicates the presence of the basic mechanisms of apoptosis already in unicellular eukaryotes. Oxygen radicals regulate both mammalian and yeast apoptosis. We suggest that apoptosis originated in unicellular organisms as an altruistic response to severe oxidative damage. Later, cells developed mechanisms to purposely produce reactive oxygen species as a regulator of apoptosis. Yeast may become an important model to investigate the conserved steps of apoptosis.
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