• apoptosis;
  • cerebellum;
  • dorsal root ganglia;
  • ganglion of the trigeminal nerve;
  • optic nerve;
  • pyknosis;
  • Rathke's pouch;
  • velum transversum


Apoptosis is a critical cellular event during several stages of neuronal development. Recently, we have shown that biotinylated annexin V detects apoptosis in vivo in various cell lineages of a wide range of species by binding to phosphatidylserines that are exposed at the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. In the present study, we tested the specificity by which annexin V binds apoptotic neurons, and subsequently investigated developmental cell death in the central and peripheral nervous system of early mouse embryos at both the cellular and histological level, and compared the phagocytic clearance of apoptotic neurons with that of apoptotic mesodermal cells. Our data indicate: (i) that biotinylated annexin V can be used as a sensitive marker that detects apoptotic neurons, including their extensions at an early stage during development; (ii) that apoptosis plays an important part during early morphogenesis of the central nervous system, and during early quantitative matching of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophic factor 3 responsive postmitotic large clear neurons in the peripheral ganglia with their projection areas; and (iii) that apoptotic neurons are removed by a process that differs from classical phagocytosis of non-neuronal tissues.