Nerve growth factor (NGF) regulates the microtubule-dependent extension and maintenance of axons by some peripheral neurons. We show here that one effect of NGF is to promote microtubule assembly during neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells. Though NGF causes an increase in total tubulin levels, the formation of neurites and the assembly of microtubules follow a time course completely distinct from that of the tubulin induction. The increases in microtubule mass and neurite extension closely parallel 10- and 20-fold inductions of tau and MAP1, proteins shown previously to promote microtubule assembly in vitro. When NGF is removed from PC12 cells, neurites disappear, microtubule mass decreases, and both microtubule-associated proteins return to undifferentiated levels. These data suggest that the induction of tau and MAP1 in response to NGF promotes microtubule assembly and that these factors are therefore key regulators of neurite outgrowth.

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