Apoptosis or programmed cell death (PCD) was initially described in metazoans as a genetically controlled process leading to intracellular breakdown and engulfment by a neighboring cell. This process was distinguished from other forms of cell death like necrosis by maintenance of plasma membrane integrity prior to engulfment and the well-defined genetic system controlling this process. Apoptosis was originally described as a mechanism to reshape tissues during development. Given this context, the assumption was made that this process would not be found in simpler eukaryotes such as budding yeast. Although basic components of the apoptotic pathway were identified in yeast, initial observations suggested that it was devoid of prosurvival and prodeath regulatory proteins identified in mammalian cells. However, as apoptosis became extensively linked to the elimination of damaged cells, key PCD regulatory proteins were identified in yeast that play similar roles in mammals. This review highlights recent discoveries that have permitted information regarding PCD regulation in yeast to now inform experiments in animals.
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