The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 37: 75 - 83 (1993)

Vol 37, Issue 1

Special Issue: Developmental Aspects of Neoplasia

The implications of a unified theory of programmed cell death, polyamines, oxyradicals and histogenesis in the embryo

Published: 1 March 1993

R E Parchment

Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Hipple Cancer Research Center, Dayton, Ohio.


Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is the ubiquitous biological phenomenon of intentional cell death that eliminates redundant cells, changes phenotypic composition during histogenesis, provides form during morphogenesis and balances mitosis in renewing tissues. This form of cell death is controlled by a genetic program(s) that kills the targeted cell without causing subsequent inflammation. Malignant cells implanted into the appropriate regulatory field in the embryo will lose their malignant phenotype yet retain the capacity for proliferation and differentiation. This embryonic regulation of cancer requires simultaneous contact with specific structures on the surfaces of normal cells and exposure to soluble, extracellular signals. During studies to identify such soluble factors in the blastocyst, extracellular hydrogen peroxide was discovered in the blastocele fluid. Current evidence indicates that this hydrogen peroxide causes apoptosis of inner cell mass cells destined to develop into trophectoderm--the first apoptotic event during mammalian development which likely prevents the formation of ectopic trophectoderm in the soon-to-appear germ layers (histogenesis). The evidence also suggests that the hydrogen peroxide is generated during the oxidation of extracellular polyamines by a family of enzymes called amine oxidases. The components of this mechanism are also present in the mammalian epidermis, where they are proposed to control the survival of basal cell progeny and hence epidermal homeostasis (essentially controlling the production of tissue mass). This mechanism causes not only apoptosis in vivo, but also the unwanted and artefactual cell death in vitro known as the crisis of spontaneous transformation. These data suggest a novel link between polyamines and apoptosis, a link that has practical as well as theoretical implications.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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