Does apoptosis recapitulate phylogeny in reverse? (revisited)

This is an old post from May, 2011. I didn’t include any images before, so I thought I would try to do a better job this time. You can support this research through Patreon. Click here for more info.


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. You can learn more about them by visiting these images. The question that remains is why such a highly sophisticated, energy expending process ever came into being in the first place. Shown below is an example of cellular necrosis with blebbing occurring. 1 = denuded cell nucleus, 2, 3, display advancing nuclear swelling with blebs, vesicles and filaments. This process is more chaotic than apoptosis and involves random degradation of nuclear elements.


So you can now compare and contrast necrosis and apoptosis. They seem to be opposites of one another, chaos versus order. However, things are not always as simple as they sometimes seem. For example, just what is going on here?


At first glance, this looks some some form of apoptosis. There are definite discrete particles here that are being released in the form of beaded circles with different sizes. One of them (far upper left) even has a centralized bead associated with it. Now, if were to show this to any typical scientist studying apoptosis they would ask you one simple question: “What in the hell is this?”  They would ask you that because they would have no clue what it is themselves. Therefore, what you are looking at here is something quite distinct from apoptosis as scientists define it. You could say this is an aborted kind of apoptosis because these structures were forced out of the dying nucleus using hydrochloric acid. So a number of questions should begin to stir in the minds of the readers. How did these things form, and what form were they prior to acid treatment?

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 and cancer.

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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
This entry was posted in cancer, endosymbionts, evolution, virus, What are they?. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Does apoptosis recapitulate phylogeny in reverse? (revisited)

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