Programmed cell death in plants: lessons from bacteria?
Programmed cell death (PCD) has well-established roles in the development and physiology of animals, plants, and fungi. Although aspects of PCD control appear evolutionarily conserved between these organisms, the extent of conservation remains controversial. Recently, a putative bacterial PCD protein homolog in plants was found to play a significant role in cell death control, indicating a conservation of function between these highly divergent organisms. Interestingly, these bacterial proteins are thought to be evolutionarily linked to the Bcl-2 family of proteins. In this opinion article, we propose a new unifying model to describe the relationship between bacterial and plant PCD systems and propose that the underlying control of PCD is conserved across at least three Kingdoms of life.