Rat sciatic nerve Schwann cells in culture respond to a limited range of mitogens, including glial growth factor, transforming growth factors beta-1 and beta-2 (TGF-beta 1, TGF-beta 2), some cell membrane-associated factors, and to agents such as cholera toxin and forskolin which raise intracellular levels of cAMP. These responses require the presence of FCS, which exhibits little or no mitogenic activity in the absence of other factors. However, we recently found that forskolin greatly potentiates the mitogenic signal from TGFs-beta 1 and beta 2, raising the possibility that cAMP might couple other factors to mitogenesis. We have therefore screened a range of candidate mitogens using DNA synthesis assays. Other than TGFs-beta and glial growth factor, none of the factors tested were mitogenic in the presence of 10% serum alone. With the addition of forskolin, however, porcine PDGF, human PDGF, acidic and basic FGF were potent mitogens for rat Schwann cells, stimulating DNA synthesis and increasing cell number. Cholera toxin and dibutyrylcyclicAMP, but not 1,9-dideoxyforskolin, can substitute for forskolin indicating that the mitogenic effect is mediated via adenylyl cyclase activation. Porcine PDGF gave half-maximal stimulation at 15 pM, and human PGDF an equivalent response at 1 nM. Basic FGF was half maximal at 5 pM, acidic FGF at 1 nM. The recognition of PDGFs and FGFs as mitogens for Schwann cells has many implications for the study of Schwann cell proliferation in the development and regeneration of nerves, and in Schwann cell tumorigenesis.

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