Bacterial programmed cell death and multicellular behavior in bacteria

Hanna Engelberg-Kulka*, Shahar Amitai, Ilana Kolodkin-Gal, Ronen Hazan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

357 Scopus citations


Traditionally, programmed cell death (PCD) is associated with eukaryotic multicellular organisms. However, recently, PCD systems have also been observed in bacteria. Here we review recent research on two kinds of genetic programs that promote bacterial cell death. The first is mediated by mazEF, a toxin-antitoxin module found in the chromosomes of many kinds of bacteria, and mainly studied in Escherichia coli. The second program is found in Bacillus subtilis, in which the skf and sdp operons mediate the death of a subpopulation of sporulating bacterial cells. We relate these two bacterial PCD systems to the ways in which bacterial populations resemble multicellular organisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1518-1526
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


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