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Cell. 1993 Apr 23;73(2):295-307.

The proto-oncogene bcl-2 can selectively rescue neurotrophic factor-dependent neurons from apoptosis.

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School of Biological and Medical Sciences, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.


Apoptosis plays an important role in regulating cell numbers in a wide variety of tissues during development. The product of the bcl-2 gene inhibits apoptosis in certain cells of the myeloid and lymphoid lineages and is expressed in many cells that have an extended life span. To assess the role of bcl-2 in neuronal apoptosis, we microinjected a bcl-2 expression vector into neurotrophic factor-deprived embryonic neurons. Sensory neurons that depend for survival on one or more members of the nerve growth factor family of neurotrophic factors (nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and neurotrophin-3) were rescued by bcl-2, whereas ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF)-dependent ciliary neurons were not. Sensory neurons, however, became refractory to bcl-2 after exposure to CNTF. These findings indicate that at least two death pathways operate in neurons that are distinguished by their susceptibility to bcl-2. Neurons may die by either pathway, depending on the factors to which they have been exposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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