Apoptosis is a physiological form of cell death that occurs during normal development, and critical mediators of this process include caspases, reactive oxygen species, and Ca2+. Excessive apoptosis of the pancreatic beta-cell has been associated with diabetes. Consequently, apoptosis research has focused on how infiltrating macrophages or cytotoxic T-cells might kill pancreatic beta-cells using cytokines or death receptor triggering. Meanwhile, the intracellular events in the target beta-cell have been largely ignored. Elucidation of such targets might help develop improved treatment strategies for diabetes. This article will outline recent developments in apoptosis research, with emphasis on mechanisms that may be relevant to beta-cell death in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Several of the models proposed in beta-cell killing converge on Ca2+ signaling, indicating that the pancreatic beta-cell may be an ideal system in which to carefully dissect the role of Ca2+ during apoptosis.

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