Apoptosis is a normal physiological cell death process of eliminating unwanted cells from living organisms during embryonic and adult development. Apoptotic cells are characterised by fragmentation of nuclear DNA and formation of apoptotic bodies. Genetic analysis revealed the involvement of many death and survival genes in apoptosis which are regulated by extracellular factors. There are multiple inducers and inhibitors of apoptosis which interact with target cell specific surface receptors and transduce the signal by second messengers to programme cell death. The regulation of apoptosis is elusive, but defective regulation leads to aetiology of various ailments. Understanding the molecular mechanism of apoptosis including death genes, death signals, surface receptors and signal pathways will provide new insights in developing strategies to regulate the cell survival/death. The current knowledge on the molecular events of apoptotic cell death and their significance in health and disease is reviewed.

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