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REVIEW: Stress-Induced Phenoptosis: Mechanistic Insights and Evolutionary Implications

Taruna Pandey1,a and Dengke K. Ma1,2,b*

1Cardiovascular Research Institute and Department of Physiology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, USA

2Innovative Genomics Institute, University of California, Berkeley, USA

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received September 15, 2022; Revised November 18, 2022; Accepted November 19, 2022
Evolution by natural selection results in biological traits that enable organismic adaptation and survival under various stressful environments. External stresses can be sometimes too severe to overcome, leading to organismic death either because of failure in adapting to such stress, or alternatively, through a regulated form of organismic death (phenoptosis). While regulated cell deaths, including apoptosis, have been extensively studied, little is known about the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying phenoptosis and its evolutionary significance for multicellular organisms. In this article, we review documented phenomena and mechanistic evidence emerging from studies of stress-induced phenoptosis in the multicellular organism C. elegans and stress-induced deaths at cellular levels in organisms ranging from bacteria to mammals, focusing on abiotic and pathogen stresses. Genes and signaling pathways involved in phenoptosis appear to promote organismic death during severe stress and aging, while conferring fitness and immune defense during mild stress and early life, consistent with their antagonistic pleiotropy actions. As cell apoptosis during development can shape tissues and organs, stress-induced phenoptosis may also contribute to possible benefits at the population level, through mechanisms including kin selection, abortive infection, and soma-to-germline resource allocation. Current models can generate experimentally testable predictions and conceptual frameworks with implications for understanding both stress-induced phenoptosis and natural aging.
KEY WORDS: stress, phenoptosis, C. elegans, aging, organismic death, antagonistic pleiotropy

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297922120082