Dash, Philip R. School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:July 2020
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- Types of death receptors
- Death receptor signaling pathways
- Regulation of death receptor signaling
- Role in physiology and disease
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Any of the cell-surface sensors that detect the presence of extracellular death signals and help to trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis). Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death in which cells play an active role in their own death, ensuring that they die in a controlled and regulated manner with little disruption to the surrounding cells. Apoptosis allows unwanted cells (for example, damaged or virus-infected cells) to be efficiently removed from the body. It plays important roles in a variety of biological processes, including embryo development, the immune system, and cancer prevention. Cells undergo apoptosis in response to a wide variety of stimuli, including both internal and external stimuli. Internal signals include DNA damage, cytoplasmic stress, and nutrient deprivation. By contrast, external signals can induce apoptosis by interacting with a class of cell-surface receptors known as death receptors. Death receptors bind a variety of ligands known collectively as the death-inducing ligands (see illustration), which can exist as soluble, secreted proteins or as membrane-bound proteins on the surface of certain cells (for example, T lymphocytes). The binding of these ligands to the death receptors allows the apoptotic signal to be transmitted to the cell, triggering the onset of apoptosis. See also: Apoptosis; Cell (biology); Ligand; Signal transduction
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