Bcl-2 functions as a death repressor molecule in an evolutionarily conserved cell death pathway. To further explore the role of Bcl-2 in development, we assessed its pattern of expression during murine embryogenesis. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrates that Bcl-2 is widely expressed early in mouse fetal development in tissues derived from all three germ layers and that this expression becomes restricted with maturation. Within epithelium, the E12.5 lung bud demonstrates a proximal to distal gradient of Bcl-2 expression which is enhanced by E18.5. Bcl-2 is expressed throughout the intestinal epithelium through E14.5, but by E18.5 only cells in the crypts and lower villi express Bcl-2. In the mesoderm-derived kidney, Bcl-2 is expressed in both the ureteric bud and metanephric cap tissue at E12.5. Tubular structures also express Bcl-2, although overall levels drop as the kidney matures. Retinal neuroepithelial cells uniformly express Bcl-2 until cells begin to differentiate and then display the topographic distribution maintained into adulthood. The developing limb provides a clear example where Bcl-2 is restricted to zones of cell survival; Bcl-2 is expressed in the digital zones but not in the interdigital zones of cell death. The wide distribution of Bcl-2 in the developing mouse suggests that many immature cells require a death repressor molecule or that Bcl-2 may have roles beyond regulating developmental cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-73
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1994


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