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Dev Biol. 1994 Sep;165(1):63-72.

Neurites can remain viable after destruction of the neuronal soma by programmed cell death (apoptosis).

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Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


During the development of the nervous system extensive programmed neuronal death occurs that is regulated by neurotrophic factors. Invariably, degeneration and death of the neuronal soma as a result of trophic factor deprivation is accompanied by concurrent degeneration of the neurites. By examining the degeneration of sympathetic neurons after deprivation of their physiological trophic factor nerve growth factor, we show that the "slow Wallerian degeneration" allele (Wld6) expressed by homozygous mutant C57BL/Ola mice alters the normal time course of programmed neuronal death by selectively and dramatically delaying the onset of neurite disintegration. In contrast, degenerative events affecting the neuronal soma are not altered: Atrophy of the soma, apoptotic disintegration of the nucleus, commitment to die, and loss of viability occur normally. The enucleate neurites remaining after death of the soma have an intact plasma membrane, are metabolically active, and require an active metabolism for physical integrity. We suggest that the degeneration of neurites during developmentally occurring neuronal death is controlled by events confined to the neurites and occurs autonomously from the neuronal soma. Furthermore, programmed neuronal death of the soma proceeds independent from any influence exerted by degenerating neurites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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