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Dev Biol. 2004 Apr 1;268(1):232-42.

The mitochondrial-apoptotic pathway is triggered in Xenopus mesoderm cells deprived of PDGF receptor signaling during gastrulation.

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Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) signaling is required for normal gastrulation in Xenopus laevis. Embryos deprived of PDGFR signaling develop with a range of gastrulation-specific defects including spina bifida, shortened anteroposterior axis, and reduced anterior structures. These defects arise because the involuting mesoderm fails to move appropriately. In this study, we determine that inhibition of PDGFR signaling causes prospective head mesoderm cells to appear in the blastocoel cavity at the onset of gastrulation, stage 10. These aberrant cells undergo apoptosis via the caspase 3 pathway at an embryonic checkpoint called the early gastrula transition (EGT). They are TUNEL-positive and have increased levels of caspase 3 activity compared to control embryos. Apoptotic death of these mesoderm cells can be prevented by co-injection of mRNA encoding Bcl-2 or by injection of either a general caspase inhibitor or a caspase 3-specific inhibitor. Prevention of cell death, however, is not sufficient to rescue gastrulation defects in these embryos. Based on these data, we propose that PDGFR signaling is necessary for survival of prospective head mesoderm cells, and also plays an essential role in the control of their cell movement during gastrulation.

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