The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 33 - 43 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 1

Regulation of programmed cell death during neural induction in the chick embryo

Open Access | Original Article | Published: 22 December 2010

Anna Gibson1, Neil Robinson, Andrea Streit2, Guojun Sheng3 and Claudio D. Stern*

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London, London, U.K.


To study early responses to neural inducing signals from the organizer (Hensen’s node), a differential screen was performed in primitive streak stage chick embryos, comparing cells that had or had not been exposed to a node graft for 5 hours. Three of the genes isolated have been implicated in Programmed Cell Death (PCD): Defender Against Cell Death (Dad1), Polyubiquitin II (UbII) and Ferritin Heavy chain (fth1). We therefore explored the potential involvement of PCD in neural induction. Dad1, UbII and fth1 are expressed in partly overlapping domains during early neural plate development, along with the pro-apoptotic gene Cas9 and the death effector Cas3. Dad1 and UbII are induced by a node graft within 3 hours. TUNEL staining revealed that PCD is initially random, but both during normal development and following neural induction by a grafted node, it becomes concentrated at the border of the forming neural plate and anterior non-neural ectoderm and downregulated from the neural plate itself. PCD was observed in regions of Caspase expression that are free from Dad1, consistent with the known anti-apoptotic role of Dad1. However, gain- and loss-of-function of any of these genes had no detectable effect on cell identity or on neural plate development. This study reveals that early development of the neural plate is accompanied by induction of putative pro- and anti-apoptotic genes in distinct domains. We suggest that the neural plate is protected against apoptosis, confining cell death to its border and adjacent non-neural ectoderm.


dad, ubiquitin, PCD, apoptosis, neural plate, neural ectoderm

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