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J Comp Neurol. 2001 Apr 23;433(1):4-22.

Expression of active caspase-3 in mitotic and postmitotic cells of the rat forebrain.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Active caspase-3 immunoreactivity was detected in the rat forebrain proliferative regions at birth and remained high in these areas for about 2 weeks, during which period labeled cells were present centroperipherally across the olfactory bulb. By the end of the third postnatal week, only a small number of immunolabeled cells remained in these forebrain structures. Active caspase-3 immunolabeling was localized mostly to cell nuclei and co-localized partially with TuJ1 and NeuN immunoreactivity, but not with glial fibrially acidic protein, OX-42, gamma-aminobutyric acid, or terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling (TUNEL)-positive labeling. Active caspase-3 and 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) double-labeled nuclei were seen in the proliferative regions after 2 hours and in the periglomerular region of the bulb after 7 days following BrdU injections. Examination of the cells with electron microscopy confirmed that the active caspase-3-containing nuclei in the proliferative regions often had infoldings and appeared to be undergoing division. Some of the cells with active caspase-3-labeled nuclei in the bulb had synapses on their somata or dendrites. Labeled dendritic spines and a few axon terminals were also observed in the olfactory bulb. Taken together, it appears that a wave of active caspase-3-positive cells are dividing in the proliferative zones and then migrating to the bulb as they differentiate into neurons. Therefore, active caspase-3 may play a role in cellular processes such as neuronal differentiation, migration, and plasticity, in addition to its role in cell death.

Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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