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Alternate cell-death program identified

Researchers find chemical inhibitor of nonapoptotic programmed cell-death process called 'necroptosis'

Melissa Lee Phillips(mlp@nasw.org)

Although research over the past decade has shown that apoptosis is likely not the only type of programmed cell death, little is known about what other mechanisms may look like. In this week's onlineNature Chemical Biology, Junying Yuan at Harvard University and her colleagues reveal such a pathway by identifying a chemical that blocks nonapoptotic programmed cell death, both in vitro and in a mouse model of ischemic brain injury.

The paper shows that the chemical, Nec-1, has no effect on apoptosis—only on this programmed necrosis-like death, which Yuan and her colleagues term "necroptosis." The researchers also show that although necroptosis shows some characteristics of autophagy, this is a downstream consequence of necroptotic signaling, not an upstream effector of it.

"There have been many hints that there are ways to kill cells" other than the classical apoptotic pathway, Shai Shaham, of the Rockefeller University, told The Scientist...

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