Interrogating the relevance of mitochondrial apoptosis for vertebrate development and postnatal tissue homeostasis.

Tuzlak, Selma; Kaufmann, Thomas; Villunger, Andreas (2016). Interrogating the relevance of mitochondrial apoptosis for vertebrate development and postnatal tissue homeostasis. Genes & development, 30(19), pp. 2133-2151. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press 10.1101/gad.289298.116

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"Programmed cell death or 'apoptosis' is critical for organogenesis during embryonic development and tissue homeostasis in the adult. Its deregulation can contribute to a broad range of human pathologies, including neurodegeneration, cancer, or autoimmunity…" These or similar phrases have become generic opening statements in many reviews and textbooks describing the physiological relevance of apoptotic cell death. However, while the role in disease has been documented beyond doubt, facilitating innovative drug discovery, we wonder whether the former is really true. What goes wrong in vertebrate development or in adult tissue when the main route to apoptotic cell death, controlled by the BCL2 family, is impaired? Such scenarios have been mimicked by deletion of one or more prodeath genes within the BCL2 family, and gene targeting studies in mice exploring the consequences have been manifold. Many of these studies were geared toward understanding the role of BCL2 family proteins and mitochondrial apoptosis in disease, whereas fewer focused in detail on their role during normal development or tissue homeostasis, perhaps also due to an irritating lack of phenotype. Looking at these studies, the relevance of classical programmed cell death by apoptosis for development appears rather limited. Together, these many studies suggest either highly selective and context-dependent contributions of mitochondrial apoptosis or significant redundancy with alternative cell death mechanisms, as summarized and discussed here.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Pharmacology

UniBE Contributor:

Kaufmann, Thomas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press




Jana Berger

Date Deposited:

29 Dec 2016 11:25

Last Modified:

01 May 2017 02:30

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

BCL2 family; BH3-only proteins; cell death; development; tissue homeostasis




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