Death in darkness: a new type of cell death discovered in fly guts
During erebosis, fluorescent proteins such as GFP and RFP become lost, making cells “black”. In the beginning of erebosis, cells lose cytoplasmic GFP (left bottom cells). Then, erebotic cells lose nuclear GFP (a cell in the center) and nuclear RFP (a cell at the top center). Credit: RIKEN

A research group led by Sa Kan Yoo at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research has discovered a completely unknown type of cell death that takes place in the guts of the common fruit fly. The new process is thought to play a role in gut metabolism. The findings force a revision of the concept of cell death and overturn the theory of tissue homeostasis in the gut. The study was published in a journal.

The cells that make up the intestines are dying and being replaced by new cells. The turnover process helps maintain the balance between the two. The theory for turnover in the intestines is that aging cells die through a process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is one of three types of cell death that are currently recognized. This assumption has been called into question by the new research, which provides evidence for a second type of programmed cell death.

It's often the case that this discovery occurs by accident. The fruit fly version of ANCE helps lower blood pressure. The cells that contained Ance had strange characteristics, and it took a long time for them to be discovered.

They realized that the process was gradual and that it might be something new. They theorize that the new type of cell death is related to the turnover in the intestines because the Ance-positive cells were often near where new cells are born. The process erebosis was named after the Greek word for darkness because the dying cells looked so dark under the microscope.

The researchers conducted several tests to prove that erebosis is a new type of cell death. The stopping of apoptosis didn't prevent gut homeostasis. This means that cell turnover in the gut can go on. The dying cells didn't show any of the markers for apoptosis or the other types of cell death. There is a general marker for cell death in late-stage erebosis.

There were clusters of gut stem cells near the cells that were being examined for erebosis. This shows that erebotic cells are replaced by newly differentiated gut cells. Knocking down or overexpressing Ance did not affect turnover or erebosis, as the enzyme that led to this discovery does not seem to be directly involved in the process. The next step is to work out the details of the events that allow erebosis and cell turnover in the fly gut.

I think our results have the potential to be a landmark finding. This work is the most ground-breaking research I have ever done, and we are interested in whether erbosis exists in the human gut as well as in fruit flies.

More information: Erebosis, a new cell death mechanism during homeostatic turnover of gut enterocytes., PLoS Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001586 Journal information: PLoS Biology Citation: Death in darkness: A new type of cell death discovered in fly guts (2022, April 25) retrieved 25 April 2022 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.