Rat pheochromocytoma cells (clone PC12) respond to nerve growth factor (NGF) by the acquirement of a phenotype resembling neuronal cells. In an earlier study we showed that NGF causes an increase in Na+,K+ pump activity, as monitored by ouabain-sensitive Rb+ influx. Here we show that addition of epidermal growth factor (EGF) to PC12 cells resulted in a stimulation of Na+,K+ pump activity as well. The increase of Na+,K+ pump activity by NGF or EGF was due to increased Na+ influx. This increased Na+ influx was sensitive to amiloride, an inhibitor of Na+,H+ exchange. Furthermore, no changes in membrane potential were observed upon addition of NGF or EGF. Amiloride-sensitive Na+,H+ exchange in PC12 cells was demonstrated by H+ efflux measurements and the effects of weak acids on Na+ influx. These observations suggest that both NGF and EGF activate an amiloride-sensitive, electroneutral Na+,H+ exchange mechanism in PC12 cells. These findings were surprising in view of the opposite ultimate biological effects of NGF and EGF, e.g., growth arrest vs. growth stimulation. However, within 24 h after addition, NGF was found to stimulate growth of PC12 cells, comparable to EGF. In the presence of amiloride, this stimulated growth by NGF and EGF was abolished. In contrast, amiloride did not affect NGF-induced neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells. From these observations it is concluded that in PC12 cells: (a) NGF has an initial growth stimulating effect; (b) neurite outgrowth is independent of increased amiloride-sensitive Na+ influx; and (c) growth stimulation by NGF and EGF is associated with increased amiloride-sensitive Na+ influx.

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