Power, Sex, Suicide by Nick Lane (2006) part 5 "Murder or suicide" mentions that apoptosis has two main functions:
- prevent cancer
- but it is also an important part of body development, e.g. fingers are separated because cells between them kill themselves. Otherwise we would have webbed feet like ducks. There is also a lot of apoptosis during the development of the brain. This has been observed notably in C. elegans see also: Section "C. elegans cell lineage".
Power, Sex, Suicide by Nick Lane (2006) part 5 "Murder or suicide" mentions that the key events that leads to apoptoses is when certain proteints normally present in the inner mitochondrial membrane spill out, and that this often happens when free radicals are produced in excess: the cell is really not doing well in those cases. This point suggests that the initial mitochondrial endosymbioses happened due to a parasite that lived inside another cell. It mentions that even today we see parasites kill the host cell when they feel that the cell does not have many nutrients. This frees the parasites to then infect other cells.