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Dev Biol. 1999 Apr 1;208(1):110-22.

Paracrine-mediated apoptosis in reproductive tract development.

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Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0444, USA.


In mammalian development, the signaling pathways that couple extracellular death signals with the apoptotic machinery are still poorly understood. We chose to examine Müllerian duct regression in the developing reproductive tract as a possible model of apoptosis during morphogenesis. The TGFbeta-like hormone, Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS), initiates regression of the Müllerian duct or female reproductive tract anlagen; this event is essential for proper male sexual differentiation and occurs between embryonic days (E) 14 and 17 in the rat. Here, we show that apoptosis occurs during Müllerian duct regression in male embryos beginning at E15. Female Müllerian ducts exposed to MIS also exhibited prominent apoptosis within 13 h, which was blocked by a caspase inhibitor. In both males and females the MIS type-II receptor is expressed exclusively in the mesenchymal cell layer surrounding the duct, whereas apoptotic cells localize to the epithelium. In addition, tissue recombination experiments provide evidence that MIS does not act directly on the epithelium to induce apoptosis. Based on these data, we suggest that MIS triggers cell death by altering mesenchymal-epithelial interactions.

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