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Development (Cambridge, England)


Geisel School of Medicine


Cell death is a common feature of neural development in all vertebrates. The bcl-2 proto-oncogene has been shown to protect a variety of cell types from programmed cell death. We have examined the distribution of bcl-2 protein in the developing and adult nervous systems. bcl-2 protein is widespread during embryonic development. Proliferating neuroepithelial cells of ventricular zones as well as the postmitotic cells of the cortical plate, cerebellum, hippocampus and spinal cord express bcl-2. Postnatally, bcl-2 is principally retained in the granule cells of the cerebellum and dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. bcl-2 expression in the CNS declines with aging. In the peripheral nervous system, neurons and supporting cells of sympathetic and sensory ganglia retain substantial bcl-2 protein throughout life. The widespread expression of bcl-2 in CNS and PNS neurons during embryonic development and its selective retention in the adult PNS is consistent with a role for bcl-2 in regulating neuronal survival. In addition, the expression of bcl-2 in some neuronal populations beyond the recognized period of cell death is suggestive of a role for bcl-2 beyond simply protecting neurons from developmental cell death.