Apoptosis is an important process in the development of the nervous system. Typically, ∼50% of the neurons apoptose during neurogenesis before the nervous system matures. However, recent paradigms implicate premature apoptosis and / or aberrations in the fine control of neuronal apoptosis in the pathogenesis of a variety of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, Huntingtons disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy, stroke, brain trauma, spinal cord injury, and diabetic neuropathy. This review will focus on the current concepts salient to understanding the apoptosis death program, the mediators and control of cellular apoptosis, and the relationship between aberrant apoptosis and genesis of neurodegenerative disorders. The discussion will also highlight current advances in methodology, such as utilization of neuronal cell lines and mutant animal models, in investigations of neuronal apoptotic death. The knowledge of apoptosis mechanisms could underpin the basis for development of novel therapeutic strategies and treatment modalities that are directed at control of the neuronal apoptotic death program.
Keywords: neuronal apoptosis, apoptosis and neurodegeneration, mitochondrial apoptotic signaling, oxidative stress and apoptosis, apoptosis and cerebrovascular injury, cerebral ischemia/reperfusion