Recent studies in Drosophila, Hydra, planarians, zebrafish, mice, indicate that cell death can open paths to regeneration in adult animals. Indeed injury can induce cell death, itself triggering regeneration following an immediate instructive mechanism, whereby the dying cells release signals that induce cellular responses over short and/or long-range distances. Cell death can also provoke a sustained derepressing response through the elimination of cells that suppress regeneration in homeostatic conditions. Whether common properties support what we name "regenerative cell death," is currently unclear. As key parameters, we review here the injury proapoptotic signals, the signals released by the dying cells, the cellular responses, and their respective timing. ROS appears as a common signal triggering cell death through MAPK and/or JNK pathway activation. But the modes of ROS production vary, from a brief pulse upon wounding, to repeated waves as observed in the zebrafish fin where ROS supports two peaks of cell death. Indeed regenerative cell death can be restricted to the injury phase, as in Hydra, Drosophila, or biphasic, immediate, and delayed, as in planarians and zebrafish. The dying cells release in a caspase-dependent manner a variety of signaling molecules, cytokines, growth factors, but also prostaglandins or ATP as recorded in Drosophila, Hydra, mice, and zebrafish, respectively. Interestingly, the ROS-producing cells often resist to cell death, implying a complex paracrine mode of signaling to launch regeneration, involving ROS-producing cells, ROS-sensing cells that release signaling molecules upon caspase activation, and effector cells that respond to these signals by proliferating, migrating, and/or differentiating.
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