During embryogenesis there is an exquisite orchestration of cellular division, movement, differentiation, and death. Cell death is one of the most important aspects of organization of the developing embryo, as alteration in timing, level, or pattern of cell death can lead to developmental anomalies. Cell death shapes the embryo and defines the eventual functions of the organs. Cells die using different paths; understanding which path a dying cell takes helps us define the signals that regulate the fate of the cell. Our understanding of cell death in development stems from a number of observations indicating genetic regulation of the death process. With todays increased knowledge of the pathways of cell death and the identification of the genes whose products regulate the pathways we know that, although elimination of some of these gene products has no developmental phenotype, alteration of several others has profound effects. In this review we discuss the types and distributions of cell death seen in developing mammalian embryos as well as the gene products that may regulate the process.
Keywords: Programmed Cell Death, Embryonic Development, Apoptosis, Necrosis, Autophagy
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