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Apoptosis. 2010 Mar;15(3):350-64. doi: 10.1007/s10495-009-0422-y.

Apoptosis in amphibian organs during metamorphosis.

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Department of Biology, Nippon Medical School, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.


During amphibian metamorphosis, the larval tissues/organs rapidly degenerate to adapt from the aquatic to the terrestrial life. At the cellular level, a large quantity of apoptosis occurs in a spatiotemporally-regulated fashion in different organs to ensure timely removal of larval organs/tissues and the development of adult ones for the survival of the individuals. Thus, amphibian metamorphosis provides us a good opportunity to understand the mechanisms regulating apoptosis. To investigate this process at the molecular level, a number of thyroid hormone (TH) response genes have been isolated from several organs of Xenopus laevis tadpoles and their expression and functional analyses are now in progress using modern molecular and genetic technologies. In this review, we will first summarize when and where apoptosis occurs in typical larva-specific and larval-to-adult remodeling amphibian organs to highlight that the timing of apoptosis is different in different tissues/organs, even though all are induced by the same circulating TH. Next, to discuss how TH spatiotemporally regulates the apoptosis, we will focus on apoptosis of the X. laevis small intestine, one of the best characterized remodeling organs. Functional studies of TH response genes using transgenic frogs and culture techniques have shown that apoptosis of larval epithelial cells can be induced by TH either cell-autonomously or indirectly through interactions with extracellular matrix (ECM) components of the underlying basal lamina. Here, we propose that multiple intra- and extracellular apoptotic pathways are coordinately controlled by TH to ensure massive but well-organized apoptosis, which is essential for the proper progression of amphibian metamorphosis.

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