Nerve growth factor (NGF) promotes neuronal differentiation of PC12 pheochromocytoma cells. One of the most prominent and distinguishing features of neuronal differentiation is neurite outgrowth. The mechanism by which NGF causes the cells to elaborate neurites is unknown. This study shows that K-252a, a potent protein kinase inhibitor, blocks NGF-induced neurite outgrowth and the changes in protein phosphorylation elicited by NGF. In the experiment with intact cells phosphorylated with 32P-orthophosphoric acid, an exposure of PC12h cells to NGF (50 ng/ml) caused an increase in the phosphorylation of tyrosine hydroxylase and a 35,000-D protein and a decrease in a 36,500-D protein. Pretreatment of PC12h cells with K-252a (100 nM) inhibited the effects of NGF on the phosphorylation of these three proteins. In the phosphorylation of cell-free extracts with [gamma-32P] ATP, treatment of PC12h cells with NGF (50 ng/ml) caused a decrease in the phosphorylation of Nsp100. Pretreatment of the cells with K-252a (30 nM) almost completely blocked the NGF effect on the phosphorylation of Nsp100 elicited by subsequent treatment of the cells with NGF. Treatment of PC12h cells with NGF promoted outgrowth of neurites. The addition of K-252a (100 nM) into the culture almost completely blocked the generation of neurites elicited by NGF. Earlier studies demonstrated that NGF-induced neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells involves at least two components: the first of these is transcription-dependent and the second is transcription-independent. To determine the component on which K-252a acts, experiments were carried out on NGF-induced priming or regeneration of neurites. When K-252a was present in the priming step, NGF induced only actinomycin D-sensitive neurites, showing that K-252a interferes with the transcription-dependent actions of NGF. When already primed cells were treated with NGF, actinomycin D-resistant neurites were formed and these were blocked by K-252a, showing that the inhibitor interferes with the transcription-independent actions of NGF as well. Although the exact mechanism of inhibition of NGF-promoted neurite formation by K-252a is unknown, the most probable explanation is that both transcription-dependent and -independent components are involved in at least one step of the activation of some specific protein kinase(s) that can be suppressed by K-252a.

This content is only available as a PDF.