The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 48: 965 - 974 (2004)

Vol 48, Issue 8-9

Special Issue: Eye Development

Cell death in the developing vertebrate retina

Published: 1 November 2004

Elena Vecino*, María Hernández and Mónica García

Department of Cell Biology and Histology, University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Vizcaya, Spain


Programmed cell death occurs naturally, as a physiological process, during the embryonic development of multicellular organisms. In the retina, which belongs to the central nervous system, at least two phases of cell death have been reported to occur during development. An early phase takes place concomitant with the processes of neurogenesis, cell migration and cell differentiation. A later phase affecting mainly neurons occurs when connections are established and synapses are formed, resulting in selective elimination of inappropriate connections. This pattern of cell death in the developing retina is common among different vertebrates. However, the timing and magnitude of retinal cell death varies among species. In addition, a precise regulation of apoptosis during retinal development has been described. Factors such as neurotrophins, among many others, and electrical activity influence the survival of retinal cells during the course of development. In this paper, we present a summary of these different aspects of programmed cell death during retinal development, and examine how these differ among different species.


apoptosis, development, retina, glutamate, neurotrophin, insulin

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.