Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, plays crucial roles in both development and tissue homeostasis. Apoptosis is widely observed in the nervous system during development. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying why only certain cells are selected to die and the execution of neural cell death itself are largely unknown. Recent genetic studies in mice and Drosophila revealed crucial roles for JNK (c-jun N-terminal kinase) activation in neural cell death. The JNK-mediated initiation of apoptotic mechanisms appears to be an excellent strategy for the fine-tuning of morphogenesis as well as cell selection in nervous tissue.
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