Abstract: This study re-examined the dying process in the interdigital tissue during the formation of free digits in the developing limbs. We demonstrated that the interdigital dying process was associated with cell senescence, as deduced by induction of ß-gal activity, mitotic arrest, and transcriptional up-regulation of p21 together with many components of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. We also found overlapping domains of expression of members of the Btg/Tob gene family of antiproliferative factors in the regressing interdigits. Notably, Btg2 was up-regulated during interdigit remodeling in species with free digits but not in the webbed foot of the duck. We also demonstrate that oxidative stress promoted the expression of Btg2, and that FGF2 and IGF1 which are survival signals for embryonic limb mesenchyme inhibited Btg2 expression. Btg2 overexpression in vivo and in vitro induced all the observed changes during interdigit regression, including oxidative stress, arrest of cell cycle progression, transcriptional regulation of senescence markers, and caspase-mediated apoptosis. Consistent with the central role of p21 on cell senescence, the transcriptional effects induced by overexpression of Btg2 are attenuated by silencing p21. Our findings indicate that cell senescence and apoptosis are complementary processes in the regression of embryonic tissues and share common regulatory signals.
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