We have examined the expression of brain-specific tropomyosins during neuronal differentiation. Both TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 were shown to be neuron specific. TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 mRNA levels increased during the most active phase of neurite outgrowth in the developing rat cerebellum. In PC12 cells stimulated by nerve growth factor (NGF) to differentiate to the neuronal phenotype, TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 levels increased with an increasing degree of morphological differentiation. Induction of TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 expression only occurred under conditions where PC12 cells were permitted to extend neurites. NGF was unable to maintain levels of TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 with the loss of neuronal phenotype by resuspension of differentiated PC12 cells. The unique cellular expression and regulation in vivo and in vitro of TmBr-1 and TmBr-3 strongly suggests a critical role of these tropomyosins in neuronal microfilament function. The findings reveal that the induction and maintenance of the neuronal tropomyosins is dependent on morphological differentiation and the maintenance of the neuronal phenotype.

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