The control of cell number during central nervous system development in flies and mice

Alicia Hidalgo, Charles Ffrench-Constant

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Growth is confined within a size that is normal for each species, revealing that somehow an organism 'knows' when this size has been reached. Within a species, growth is also variable, but despite this, proportion and structure are maintained. Perhaps, the key element in the control of size is the control of cell number. Here we review current knowledge on the mechanisms controlling cell number in the nervous system of vertebrates and flies. During growth, clonal expansion is confined, the number of progeny cells is balanced through the control of cell survival and cell proliferation and excess cells are eliminated by apoptosis. Simultaneously, organ architecture emerges and as neurons become active they also influence growth. The interactive control of cell number provides developmental plasticity to nervous system development. Many findings are common between flies and mice, other aspects have been studied more in one organism than the other and there are also aspects that are unique to either organism. Although cell number control has long been studied in the nervous system, analogous mechanisms are likely to operate during the growth of other organs and organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1325
Number of pages15
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Cell death
  • Cell number
  • Central nervous system
  • Growth
  • Size
  • Stem cells

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