Apoptosis is essential for the precise regulation of cellular homeostasis and development. The role in vivo of Apaf1, a mammalian homolog of C. elegans CED-4, was investigated in gene-targeted Apaf1-/- mice. Apaf1-deficient mice exhibited reduced apoptosis in the brain and striking craniofacial abnormalities with hyperproliferation of neuronal cells. Apaf1-deficient cells were resistant to a variety of apoptotic stimuli, and the processing of Caspases 2, 3, and 8 was impaired. However, both Apaf1-/- thymocytes and activated T lymphocytes were sensitive to Fas-induced killing, showing that Fas-mediated apoptosis in these cells is independent of Apaf1. These data indicate that Apaf1 plays a central role in the common events of mitochondria-dependent apoptosis in most death pathways and that this role is critical for normal development.
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