Does apoptosis recapitulate phylogeny in reverse?

You can blow a house to smithereens using explosives or you can carefully deconstruct it to avoid collateral damage. Necrosis is the former, apoptosis the latter.  The intricate apoptotic  pathways used to safely deconstruct cells are widely documented. The question that remains is why such a highly sophisticated, energy expending process ever came into being. The scanning electron micrographs shown below are of images well known to those familiar with the process of apoptosis.  However, the UV photomicrographs just below them were derived from the same type of cells engaged in the apoptotic deconstruction shown in the first set of images.  In the literature, you will find images that show a roughly similar rosetting  effect within the confines of a defined membranous structure; but nothing comes close to the display of beaded circular and irregular “strings of pearls” seen in the photomicrographs shown in this blog. In addition, these beaded circles come in a range of sizes that may include several orders of magnitude. Furthermore, the beads seem to be interconnected by something beyond the resolution of light microscopy. So what exactly is going on here? I believe these images are showing a hierarchical deconstruction of the DNA superstructure based upon how it was originally constructed throughout the course of evolution.  Envision a house made up of bricks “A” which are composed of bricks “B” which are made from bricks “C”.  In this scenario, the house can be deconstructed in three ways: 1) Reduction to bricks A, 2) reduction of bricks A to bricks B, and 3) reduction of bricks B to bricks C. The result is three levels of bricks in various stages of deconstruction. Why is apoptosis so carefully regulated to insure these “bricks” get completely destroyed? Is it because they may be more than just simple, random chunks of DNA  cut off from the chromatin? I think we can all agree that apoptosis is far too sophisticated a process to be so mundanely trivialized. An alternative explanation is that these “bricks” are genetically dangerous because they are capable of self-replication. In other words, at one point in time they belonged to an independent organism. Without careful deconstruction prior to release, they are genetic “bombs” looking for cells in which to reinsert themselves, causing massive mutations.


About frankabernathy

I am a retired cell biologist and alumnus of Ohio State University. I became interested in chromosomes as far back as the 1960's when I wrote a term paper on the effects of radiomimetic drugs on chromosomes. I was fascinated at how they could break apart and reform new structures so easily. I became further involved in the early 1970's after taking a cytogenetics course at the University of Arkansas. I took that knowledge with me to Ohio State in 1980 where I eventually worked on my research and completed my Ph.D. dissertation, "Studies on Eukaryotic DNA Superstructure". My studies and later research suggested that the DNA within the eukaryotic chromosome is not the simple, linear molecular thread so widely suggested in all the classic textbooks published today. Instead, it may be the culmination of a geologically rapid set of endosymbiotic events where microorganisms plug into each other to create something greater than themselves. Feel free to contact me at
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