Insights have emerged concerning insulin function during development, from the finding that apoptosis during chicken embryo neurulation is prevented by prepancreatic (pro)insulin. While characterizing the molecules involved in this survival effect of insulin, we found insulin-dependent regulation of the molecular chaperone heat shock cognate 70 kDa (Hsc70), whose cloning in chicken is reported here. This chaperone, generally considered constitutively expressed, showed regulation of its mRNA and protein levels in unstressed embryos during early development. More important, Hsc70 levels were found to depend on endogenous (pro)insulin, as shown by using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides against (pro)insulin mRNA in cultured neurulating embryos. Further, in the cultured embryos, apoptosis affected mainly cells with the lowest level of Hsc70, as shown by simultaneous Hsc70 immunostaining and terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated UTP nick end labeling. These results argue in favor of Hsc70 involvement, modulated by embryonic (pro)insulin, in the prevention of apoptosis during early development and suggest a role for a molecular chaperone in normal embryogenesis
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