We have studied proliferation and programmed cell death in the brain of the honeybee during metamorphosis. DNA fragmentation detection using the TUNEL method combined with 5-bromodeoxyuridine incorporation experiments reveal that in the mushroom bodies neurogenesis is terminated by extensive apoptosis. Proliferation of mushroom body neuroblasts is active until the fourth day of pupal development, ceasing abruptly within 1 day after the onset of apoptosis in the mushroom body proliferative clusters. Inside the mushroom bodies, apoptosis spreads from the apical ends of proliferative clusters, beneath the brain's surface, toward the basal ones. The distributions of apoptotic cells and those in the S phase of the cell cycle overlap significantly. Electron microscopic analysis gives further evidence that mushroom body neuroblasts themselves undergo programmed cell death. We suggest that programmed cell death may be the main factor controlling the final number of Kenyon cells produced during metamorphosis. The overlap in time and space between proliferation and apoptosis raises the question of whether the neuronal precursors switch to programmed cell death during the progression of the cell cycle, or afterwards.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.