Programmed cell death and the control of cell survival: lessons from the nervous system

Science  29 Oct 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5134, pp. 695-700
DOI: 10.1126/science.8235590


During the development of the vertebrate nervous system, up to 50 percent or more of many types of neurons normally die soon after they form synaptic connections with their target cells. This massive cell death is thought to reflect the failure of these neurons to obtain adequate amounts of specific neurotrophic factors that are produced by the target cells and that are required for the neurons to survive. This neurotrophic strategy for the regulation of neuronal numbers may be only one example of a general mechanism that helps to regulate the numbers of many other vertebrate cell types, which also require signals from other cells to survive. These survival signals seem to act by suppressing an intrinsic cell suicide program, the protein components of which are apparently expressed constitutively in most cell types.

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