Apaf1-dependent programmed cell death is required for inner ear morphogenesis and growth

Francesco Cecconi, Kevin A. Roth, Oleg Dolgov, Eliana Munarriz, Konstantin Anokhin, Peter Gruss, Marjo Salminen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During inner ear development programmed cell death occurs in specific areas of the otic epithelium but the significance of it and the molecules involved have remained unclear. We undertook an analysis of mouse mutants in which genes encoding apoptosis-associated molecules have been inactivated. Disruption of the Apaf1 gene led to a dramatic decrease in apoptosis in the inner ear epithelium, severe morphogenetic defects and a significant size reduction of the membranous labyrinth, demonstrating that an Apaf1-dependent apoptotic pathway is necessary for normal inner ear development. This pathway most probably operates through the apoptosome complex because caspase 9 mutant mice suffered similar defects. Inactivation of the Bcl2-like (Bcl2l) gene led to an overall increase in the number of cells undergoing apoptosis but did not cause any major morphogenetic defects. In contrast, decreased apoptosis was observed in specific locations that suffered from developmental deficits, indicating that proapoptotic isoform(s) produced from Bcl2l might have roles in inner ear development. In Apaf1-/-/Bcl2l-/- double mutant embryos, no cell death could be detected in the otic epithelium, demonstrating that the cell death regulated by the anti-apoptotic Bcl2l isoform, Bcl-XL in the otic epithelium is Apaf1-dependent. Furthermore, the otic vesicle failed to close completely in all double mutant embryos analyzed. These results indicate important roles for both Apaf1 and Bcl2l in inner ear development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2125-2135
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-X
  • Bcl-X
  • Bcl21
  • Caspase 9
  • Cochlea
  • Mouse
  • Otic vesicle closure
  • Proliferation
  • Semicircular ducts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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