Caspase regulation of neuronal progenitor cell apoptosis

Dev Neurosci. 2000;22(1-2):116-24. doi: 10.1159/000017433.


Programmed cell death (apoptosis) of both proliferating neuroblasts and postmitotic neurons is essential for normal nervous system development. To study the molecular regulation of apoptosis in neuronal progenitor cells, we developed a flow cytometric assay capable of distinguishing between viable, apoptotic, and necrotic cell populations. Incubation of freshly dissociated telencephalic cells from gestational day 12-13 mouse embryos with either cytosine arabinoside (AraC) or staurosporine caused a marked increase in the percentage of apoptotic cells. Both drugs induced caspase-3 activation, as determined by in vitro cleavage of a caspase-3 substrate and immunocytochemical detection of activated caspase-3. Treatment of telencephalic cells with the broad caspase inhibitor BAF, blocked caspase-3 activation and protected cells against both AraC and staurosporine-induced apoptotic death. These results indicate that neuronal progenitors possess a caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway, the activation of which may regulate neuronal progenitor cell numbers in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases / physiology*
  • Cytarabine / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Staurosporine / pharmacology
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Telencephalon / cytology
  • Telencephalon / embryology


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytarabine
  • Caspases
  • Staurosporine