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Thyroid hormone regulation of apoptotic tissue remodeling: implications from molecular analysis of amphibian metamorphosis.

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Laboratory of Molecular Embryology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Organogenesis and tissue remodeling are critical processes during postembryonic animal development. Anuran metamorphosis has for nearly a century served as an excellent model to study these processes in vertebrates. Frogs not only have essentially the same organs with the same functions as higher vertebrates such as humans, but also employ similar organogenic processes involving highly conserved genes. Development of frog organs takes place during metamorphosis, which is free of any maternal influences but absolutely dependent on the presence of thyroid hormone. Furthermore, this process can be easily manipulated both in intact tadpoles and in organ cultures by controlling the availability of thyroid hormone. These interesting properties have led to extensive morphological, cellular, and biochemical studies on amphibian metamorphosis. More recently, the cloning of thyroid hormone receptors and the demonstration that they are transcription factors have encouraged enormous interest in the molecular pathways controlling tissue remodeling induced by thyroid hormone during metamorphosis. This article summarizes some of the recent studies on the mechanisms of gene regulation by thyroid hormone receptors and isolation and functional characterization of genes induced by thyroid hormone during Xenopus metamorphosis. Particular focus is placed on the remodeling of the animal intestine, which involves both apoptosis (programmed cell death) of larval cells and de novo development of adult tissues, and the roles of thyroid hormone-induced genes that encode matrix metalloproteinases during this process.

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