Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

Programmed cell death shown to be 550 million years old

See also

One of the major pathways of apoptosis or programmed cell death seen in humans has been found in coral that dates to the Cambrian explosion. Steven D. Quistad from San Diego State University in San Diego, California and colleagues have proven that the tumor necrosis factor proteins that cause cell death are 550 million years old. The research was reported in the June 9, 2014, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The coral species Acropora digitifera has been found to have more tumor necrosis factor proteins than any other organism including man. The researchers substituted human tumor necrosis factor proteins into coral and produced coral bleaching and cell death. Substitution of tumor necrosis factor proteins from coral into healthy human cells produced cell death.

The similarity in action of the same type of proteins from two very different organisms indicates that the tumor necrosis factor proteins have been evolutionarily conserved for at least half a billion years. Tumor necrosis factor proteins have been traced back to the earliest known arthropod species. It is unusual for a protein to have been preserved over such a vast period of time. The function of the protein also appears to have been preserved for the same time with minimal changes.

The research contradicts presently accepted theory that the complexity of life has steadily increased since the Cambrian explosion. This is the first evidence that a protein has been conserved in form and function for this period of time and probably as early as the Precambrian era. The multiple added forms of tumor necrosis factor proteins in coral may have a function in preventing cell death in humans.

The researchers do not express any opinion about the potential for human cells being a factor in coral bleaching and death. Diving around coral is a common human activity. Human cells with their tumor necrosis factor proteins are certainly lost around coral when people dive around coral. The fact that tumor necrosis factor proteins from humans produce cell death in coral could be a small factor in coral death.

Advertisement

News

  • Jar-Jar is more popular than Congress
    A new poll shows Jar-Jar Binks is more popular than Congress
    Video
    Video
  • Missing girl found
    After 9 months of being missing, Abigail Hernandez is back with her family
    US News
  • Tree destroyed by beetles
    A tree meant to honor Beatle George Harrison has been destroyed by beetles
    Top News
  • Mystery flags on bridge
    Mysterious white flags have replaced the American ones on the Brooklyn Bridge
    New York
  • Weird Al album debut
    Weird Al's new album has officially debuted at no. 1
    Music
  • Broncos owner resigns
    Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has resigned due to Alzheimer's
    Sports