All in the family: Evolutionary and functional relationships among death receptors

J. T. Bridgham, J. A. Wilder, H. Hollocher, A. L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Over the last decade, significant progress has been made towards identifying the signaling pathways within mammalian cells that lead to apoptosis mediated by death receptors. The simultaneous expression of more than one death receptor in many, if not all, cell types suggests that functional innovation has driven the divergence of these receptors and their cognate ligands. To better understand the physiological divergence of the death receptors, a phylogenetic analysis of vertebrate death receptors was conducted based upon amino-acid sequences encoding the death domain regions of currently known and newly identified members of the family. Evidence is presented to indicate an ancient radiation of death receptors that predates the emergence of vertebrates, as well as ongoing divergence of additional receptors both within several receptor lineages as well as modern taxonomic lineages. We speculate that divergence among death receptors has led to their functional specialization. For instance, some receptors appear to be primarily involved in mediating the immune response, while others play critical roles during development and tissue differentiation. The following represents an evolutionary approach towards an understanding of the complex relationship among death receptors and their proposed physiological functions in vertebrate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Apoptosis
  • Death receptors
  • Phylogeny
  • Vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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