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Microsc Res Tech. 1996 Jun 15;34(3):236-46.

Morphology and significance of programmed cell death in the developing limb bud of the vertebrate embryo.

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Departamento de Anatomía y Biología Celular, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain.


Cell death constitutes a basic mechanism accounting for many morphogenetic and histogenetic events during normal and abnormal development of embryonic organs and tissues. This article focuses on the major areas of mesodermal cell death occurring during vertebrate limb development. In early stages of limb development, cell death appears to reduce the amount of mesodermal tissue destined to form the anlage of the autopodium. In later stages, cell death plays a role sculpturing the shape of the digits. The morphology of the dying cells corresponds with apoptosis, but internucleosomal DNA fragmentation by endonuclease activation does not appear to be a precocious feature. The cell death program can be inhibited in vivo and in vitro by changing the environmental conditions of the prospective dying cells up to 6-10 h before death. In this review, we survey possible factors controlling the establishment of the cell death program. Information concerning the biochemical basis of cell death in the developing limb is also revised. Finally, the possible role of genes whose pattern of expression is coincident with the dying processes is discussed.

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