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Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Jun 15;35(12):946-56.

Programmed cell death: implications for neuropsychiatric disorders.

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  • 1Biological Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD.


Programmed cell death, sometimes referred to as apoptosis, occurs through an active process requiring new gene transcription, in contrast to the passive cell death produced by metabolic toxins. Programmed cell death is an essential part of normal development, particularly in the nervous system. Spatial, temporal, or quantitative errors in the stimuli that initiate programmed cell death, or errors within the programmed cell death pathway itself, can result in an abnormal number of neurons and pathological neural development. Excesses and deficits in neuronal numbers have now been observed not only in typical neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases, but also in several neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism. Recent investigations into the mechanisms of cell death during C. elegans neurodevelopment thymocyte negative selection, and withdrawal of sympathetic ganglion cells trophic support provides intriguing clues to the etiology and pathophysiology of these neuropsychiatric disorders.

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