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In biology, apoptosis (from the Greek words apo = from and ptosis = falling, commonly pronounced ap-a-tow'-sis[1]) is one of the main types of programmed cell death (PCD). As such, it is a process of deliberate life relinquishment by an unwanted cell in a multicellular organism. In contrast to necrosis, which is a form of cell death that results from acute cellular injury, apoptosis is carried out in an ordered process that generally confers advantages during an organism's life cycle. For example, the differentiation of human fingers in a developing embryo requires the cells between the fingers to initiate apoptosis so that the fingers can separate. The way the apoptotic process is executed facilitates the safe disposal of cell corpses and fragments.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, research on apoptosis has grown spectacularly. In addition to its importance as a biological phenomenon, defective apoptotic processes have been implicated in an extensive variety of diseases. Too much apoptosis causes cell-loss disorders, whereas too little results in uncontrolled cell proliferation, namely cancerous tumors.


Lectins known to induce apoptosis

Rice bran lectin Human leukemic cells J Biochem (Tokyo) 2001 Dec;130(6):799-805)
Mistletoe lectin Human endothelial malignancies Mol Med 2002 Oct;8(10):600-6)
Wheat Germ agglutinin Human pancreatic cancer cells Br J Cancer 1999 Aug;80(11):1754-62
Pokeweed mitogen Prime lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cell-mediated cytotoxicity to induce apoptosis in a variety of tumor systems Zhonghua Zhong Liu Za Zhi 1995 Jul;17(4):245-8
Urtica dioica lectin Human T cell apoptosis Res. Immunol. 1995 (146); 249-262
  • From: D'Adamo, P. IfHI 2003. Tempe AZ