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Development. 2004 Nov;131(21):5417-27. Epub 2004 Oct 6.

Phosphatidylserine receptor is required for the engulfment of dead apoptotic cells and for normal embryonic development in zebrafish.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Biotechnology, Institute of Biotechnology, National Cheng-Kung University, Tainan 701, Taiwan.


During development, the role of the phosphatidylserine receptor (PSR) in the removal of apoptotic cells that have died is poorly understood. We have investigated this role of PSR in developing zebrafish. Programmed cell death began during the shield stage, with dead cells being engulfed by a neighboring cell that showed a normal-looking nucleus and the nuclear condensation multi-micronuclei of an apoptotic cell. The zebrafish PSR engulfing receptor was cloned (zfpsr), and its nucleotide sequence was compared with corresponding sequences in Drosophila melanogaster (76% identity), human (74%), mouse (72%) and Caenorhabditis elegans (60%). The PSR receptor contained a jmjC domain (residues 143-206) that is a member of the cupin metalloenzyme superfamily, but in this case serves an as yet unknown function(s). psr knockdown by a PSR morpholino oligonucleotide led to accumulation of a large number of dead apoptotic cells in whole early embryo. These cells interfered with embryonic cell migration. In addition, normal development of the somite, brain, heart and notochord was sequentially disrupted up to 24 hours post-fertilization. Development could be rescued in defective embryos by injecting psr mRNA. These results are consistent with a PSR-dependent system in zebrafish embryos that engulfs apoptotic cells mediated by PSR-phagocytes during development, with the system assuming an important role in the normal development of tissues such as the brain, heart, notochord and somite.

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