Int. J. Dev. Biol. 59: 33 - 39 (2015)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.150047dd
© UPV/EHU Press

Apaf1 in embryonic development - shaping life by death, and more

Daniela De Zio*,1,2, Emiliano Maiani1 and Francesco Cecconi*,1,2

1Cell Stress and Survival Unit, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark and 2IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, and Department of Biology - University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

ABSTRACT Apaf1 has been studied hitherto for its key role in regulating the formation of the apoptotic core machinery, the apoptosome, to induce programmed cell death. Apaf1 involvement in orchestrating this process during embryonic development has been widely documented and constitutes a breakthrough in developmental biology. In this review, we aim to highlight the origin of Apaf1 discoveries and how findings, mainly based on the analysis of knock-out mouse models, have led us to consider Apaf1 as a master player in fine-tuning apoptosis during embryonic development. Likewise, we also attempt to establish how Apaf1 function is locally time-dependent in regulating neurodevelopment and becomes dispensable during neuron maturation. We go on to discuss Apaf1’s new functions which have been unveiled in recent years and which could revise or, at least, adjust the common view of Apaf1 having merely an apoptotic role. Hence, by presenting clear indications on the pro-survival roles of Apaf1, this review seeks to provide novel and more complex insights into Apaf1 involvement in nervous system development.

Keywords:

apoptosis, neurodevelopment, centrosome

*Corresponding author e-mail: francesco.cecconi@uniroma2.it ; cecconi@cancer.dk ; dzio@cancer.dk