NGF is a neurotrophic protein that promotes the survival, growth, and differentiation of developing sympathetic neurons. To directly determine the effects of different concentrations of NGF on neuronal gene expression, we examined mRNAs encoding the p75 low-affinity NGF (LNGF) receptor, T alpha 1 alpha-tubulin (T alpha 1), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in pure cultures of rat sympathetic neurons from postnatal day 1 superior cervical ganglia. Studies of the timecourse of gene expression during 2 wk in culture indicated that a 5-d incubation period would be optimal for the concentration-effect studies. Analysis of RNA isolated from neurons cultured in 2-200 ng/ml 2.5S NGF for 5 d revealed that, as the NGF concentration increased, neurons expressed correspondingly increased levels of all three mRNAs. Both LNGF receptor and TH mRNAs increased seven-fold, and T alpha 1 mRNA increased four-fold in neurons cultured in 200 versus 10 ng/ml NGF. In contrast, T26 alpha-tubulin mRNA, which is constitutively expressed, did not alter as a function of NGF concentration. When neurons were initially cultured in 10 ng/ml NGF for 5 d, and then 200 ng/ml NGF was added, LNGF receptor, T alpha 1, and TH mRNAs all increased within 48 h. The timecourse of induction differed: T alpha 1 mRNA was maximal by 5 h, whereas LNGF receptor and TH mRNAs first began to increase at 12 h after the NGF increase. These experiments show that NGF regulates expression of a subset of mRNAs important to neuronal growth and differentiation over a broad concentration range, suggesting that the effects of NGF may be mediated by more than just a single receptor operating at one fixed affinity. These results also suggest a mechanism for coupling neuronal synthesis of axonal proteins to increases in size of the innervated target territory during growth of the organism.

This content is only available as a PDF.