METACASPASE9 modulates autophagy to confine cell death to the target cells during Arabidopsis vascular xylem differentiation
Biol Open. 2016, 5(2):122-129
Escamez S, André D, Zhang B, Bollhöner B, Pesquet E, Tuominen H

We uncovered that the level of autophagy in plant cells undergoing programmed cell death determines the fate of the surrounding cells. Our approach consisted of using Arabidopsis thaliana cell cultures capable of differentiating into two different cell types: vascular tracheary elements (TEs) that undergo programmed cell death (PCD) and protoplast autolysis, and parenchymatic non-TEs that remain alive. The TE cell type displayed higher levels of autophagy when expression of the TE-specific METACASPASE9 (MC9) was reduced using RNAi (MC9-RNAi). Misregulation of autophagy in the MC9-RNAi TEs coincided with ectopic death of the non-TEs, implying the existence of an autophagy-dependent intercellular signalling from within the TEs towards the non-TEs. Viability of the non-TEs was restored when AUTOPHAGY2 (ATG2) was downregulated specifically in MC9-RNAi TEs, demonstrating the importance of autophagy in the spatial confinement of cell death. Our results suggest that other eukaryotic cells undergoing PCD might also need to tightly regulate their level of autophagy to avoid detrimental consequences for the surrounding cells.

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