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Mol Neurodegener. 2011 Jul 15;6:50. doi: 10.1186/1750-1326-6-50.

BBC3 (PUMA) regulates developmental apoptosis but not axonal injury induced death in the retina.

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  • 1Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA.



Naturally occurring apoptosis is a developmental process that shapes the retina by eliminating overproduced neurons. In the absence of the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member BAX, developmental apoptosis in the retina is disrupted and extra neurons survive. It is unknown how BAX is activated or if this regulation varies between neuronal types and subtypes. Since the Bcl-2 family members BIM, BID, and BBC3 (PUMA) are powerful direct activators of BAX, we used mice deficient for each of these genes to investigate their importance in developmental apoptosis.


Bax deficient mice have an increase in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), bipolar cells and dopaminergic amacrine cells, but not photoreceptors, horizontal cells or cholinergic amacrine cells. The retinas of adult Bim and Bid deficient mice appeared to have no increase in any retinal cell type. Bbc3 deficient mice, either homozygous or heterozygous for a null allele of Bbc3, had an increase in the same cell types as Bax deficient mice. An analogous result may occur in the brain where, similar to Bax deficient mice, Bbc3 deficient mice have a larger gross brain weight compared to wild type mice. In contrast to its developmental role, BBC3 did not appear to be a primary factor in BAX-dependent axonal injury induced neurodegeneration in adult RGCs.


The regulation of BAX activation in the retina appears to be complex, dependent on the developmental stage of the animal, the nature of the insult and even the type of neuron.

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