Apoptosis is a genetically controlled and evolutionarily conserved form of active cell death, albeit with an increase in complexity with continuing development. A high conservation at the functional and molecular level has been described between the players of the apoptotic machinery in invertebrates (Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila) and mammals. However, fish represent an excellent and advantageous model for the study of vertebrate development and disease, bridging the gap between the C. elegans/Drosophila and mouse/human models. Moreover, contrary to C. elegans and Drosophila, fish can be used for studying the development and function of vertebrate-specific organs and have a fully developed immune system similar to that of mammals. Last but not less important, both the environment and human health will obviously gain by using the knowledge generated through the use of fish models, for developing better prophylactic and therapeutic measures with impact on the aquaculture industry. In the present article, structural and functional data on the most important apoptosis related molecules, namely death-receptor, Bcl-2 and caspase families, and mechanisms are reviewed. The data point to the existence in fish of apoptotic pathways equivalent to those of mammals, making fish useful animal models for studying apoptosis, which may have great applicability for the advance of the knowledge on the role of apoptotic cell death in human apoptosisrelated disorders as well as in pharmaceutical design.
Keywords: Fish, Apoptosis, Death receptors, Bcl-2 family, Caspases, Intrinsic pathway, Extrinsic pathway, Apoptosis models
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