Neuronal cell death is an important phenomenon in the series of steps involved in the development of the mature vertebrate nervous system. Neurogenesis produces about twice as many neurons in a given structure as survive in the adult organism. This initial excess of neurons is pruned within a narrow time span that differs among structures in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. This seemingly wasteful process is conceived to be a mechanism whereby the size of a neuronal pool is matched to the amount of target tissue to be innervated. This general interpretation is supported by decades of work in which naturally occurÂ ring cell death can, in most situations, be reduced by increasing the mass of the target tissue or exacerbated by removing target tissue. Our objective is not to review the literature on the general phenomenon of cell death during the development of the nervous system; this has already been well described in detail (Oppenheim 1991). Rather, our charge is to focus more narrowly on recent studies of possible molecular mechanisms involved in developmental cell death and its probable pathological analogues (axotomy, target removal) and the mechanistic insights that might be obtained from studies of
Annual Review of Neuroscience – Annual Reviews
Published: Mar 1, 1993
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