The role of cell death in regulating the size and shape of the mammalian forebrain

Cereb Cortex. 1999 Sep;9(6):621-6. doi: 10.1093/cercor/9.6.621.


The size of the cerebral cortex is determined by the rate of production of neurons and glial cells in the proliferative ventricular and subventricular zones. Recent studies from targeted mutations of different death-effector gene families indicate that programmed cell death (PCD) plays an important role in cell production and early morphogenesis of the mammalian forebrain before the formation of neuronal connections. For example, disruption of the c/Jun N-kinase signaling pathway by double-targeted mutation of both Jnk1 and Jnk2 results in increased PCD in the forebrain leading to precocious degeneration of cerebral precursors. In contrast, disturbance of the caspase cascade by targeted disruption of either casp-9 or casp-3 leads to decreased PCD causing expansion and exencephaly of the forebrain as well as supernumerary neurons in the cerebral cortex. The supernumerary neurons in these knockout mice align radially and form an expanded cortical plate which begins to form cerebral convolutions. Thus, the precise coordination of different apoptotic signaling pathways during early stages of neurogenesis is crucial for regulation of the proper cortical size and shape.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Mammals
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prosencephalon / cytology*
  • Prosencephalon / embryology*