In vivo detection of programmed cell death during mouse heart development

Cell Death Differ. 2020 Apr;27(4):1398-1414. doi: 10.1038/s41418-019-0426-2. Epub 2019 Sep 30.


Despite the great progress on the cell biology of programmed cell death (PCD), its incidence and exact time course during embryonic and particular heart development are still unclear. This is also due to the lack of models enabling to directly identify and monitor PCD cells at different time points in vivo. Herein we report generation of transgenic murine embryonic stem cell and mouse models expressing secreted Annexin V-YFP under control of the CAG promoter. This enables to visualize and quantify PCD in vitro and in vivo during embryonic development. At early embryonic stages we found Annexin V-YFP+ fluorescent cells in known areas of PCD, such as the otic ring and at the site of neural tube closing, underscoring its specificity for detection of PCD. We have focused our detailed analysis primarily on PCD in the embryonic heart for a better understanding of its role during development. Our findings reveal that PCD peaks at early stages of cardiogenesis (E9.5-E13.5) and strongly decreases thereafter. Moreover, the PCD cells in the heart are predominantly cardiomyocytes, and an unexpected area of prominent cardiac PCD are the ventricular trabeculae (E9.5-E14.5). Thus, the sA5-YFP mouse line provides novel insight into the incidence and relevance of cardiac PCD during embryonic development ex- and in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryonic Development
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Tube / embryology
  • Organogenesis


  • Caspases