Differential screening of a cDNA library from the PC12 rat pheochromocytoma cell line previously revealed a clone, clone 73, whose corresponding mRNA is induced by nerve growth factor (NGF). Induction parallels NGF-stimulated PC12 differentiation from a chromaffinlike phenotype to a sympathetic neuronlike phenotype. We report that DNA sequence analysis reveals that clone 73 mRNA encodes an intermediate filament (IF) protein whose predicted amino acid sequence is distinct from the known sequences of other members of the IF protein family. The sequence has highest homology with desmin and vimentin and includes the highly conserved central alpha-helical rod domain with the characteristic heptad repeat of hydrophobic residues, but has lower homology in the amino-terminal head and carboxyl-terminal tail domains. The head domain contains a large number of serine residues which are potential phosphorylation sites. The expression of clone 73 in vivo in the nervous system of the adult rat was investigated by in situ hybridization of clone 73 probes to tissue sections. The mRNA is expressed at high levels in ganglia of the peripheral nervous system, including the superior cervical ganglion (sympathetic), ciliary ganglion (parasympathetic), and dorsal root ganglion (sensory). In the central nervous system, motor nuclei of cranial nerves III, IV, V, VI, VII, X, and XII as well as ventral horn motor neurons and a restricted set of other central nervous system nuclei express the clone 73 mRNA. Tissues apart from those of the nervous system did not in general express the mRNA, with only very low levels detected in adrenal gland. We discuss the implications of these results for the mechanism of NGF-induced PC12 cell differentiation, the pathways of neuronal development in vivo, and the possible function of the clone 73 IF protein and its relationship to other IF proteins.

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