Apoptosis is a gene-directed physiological and programmed process of cell deletion aimed at the regulation of tissue and organ development. It affects different cell types and is triggered by a variety of stimuli all inducing closely comparable structural changes. Despite the deeply different morphology and metabolism of the cell models and the various inducers and their initial effects., a convergence seems to take place in a common metabolic pathway that., in most cases., involves the activation of a Ca2+ dependent endonuclease. A growing body of data is now available on the molecular events that lead to DNA damage. DNA cleavage in nucleosomic or oligonucleosomic fragments is related to the appearance of unusual and very characteristic ultrastructural changes. The nucleus is especially affected., and shows chromatin rearrangements consisting of cup-shaped marginations., sharply separated from diffuse chromatin areas. Nuclear fragmentation subsequently appears., finally followed by the formation of numerous micronuclei. Cytoplasmic damage appears at a very late stage and the process takes place despite good preservation of plasma membrane and cytoplasm.
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