Peripherin is the major neuronal intermediate filament (IF) protein in PC12 cells and both its synthesis and amount increase during nerve growth factor (NGF) promoted neuronal differentiation. To address the question of the biological function of peripherin in neurite initiation we have used an antisense oligonucleotide complementary to the 5' region of peripherin mRNA to specifically inhibit its transcription. The oligonucleotide blocks both the synthesis of peripherin and its increase in response to NGF. Peripherin was found to be a stable protein with a cellular half-life of approximately 7 d. 6 wk of incubation with the oligonucleotide decreases peripherin to 11% of the level in naive control cells and to 3% of that in NGF-treated control cells. Despite the depletion, NGF elicits apparently normal neurite outgrowth from the oligonucleotide-treated cells. As evaluated by EM, there are few IFs in these cells, either in the cell bodies or neurites. There is no compensatory increase in NF-M, NF-L, or vimentin levels as a result of the inhibition of peripherin synthesis. These findings suggest that peripherin is not required for neurite formation, but is necessary for the formation of a cellular IF network which could be involved in process stability. They also demonstrate the utility of antisense oligonucleotides for the study of proteins with long half-lives.
cAMP analogues such as dibutyryl cAMP (dBcAMP) have been shown to induce the formation of processes in cultured primary astrocytes. We observe that the processes form by elongation as well as the previously reported retraction of cytoplasm around cytoskeletal elements. The most prominent cytoskeletal change that occurs in response to dBcAMP is a rearrangement of actin filaments characterized by a loss of cortical F-actin staining and the appearance of actin filament staining at the tips of the processes. If cortical actin filaments are disrupted with dihydrocytochalasin B, processes form that are similar to those induced by dBcAMP suggesting that the disruption of the cortical actin network is the pivotal step in process formation. Reorganization of the actin filament network in response to cAMP is accompanied by a decrease in phosphate incorporation into the regulatory light chain of myosin (MLC). Two selective inhibitors of MLC kinase (MLCK), ML-9 and KT5926, as well as a calmodulin antagonist (W7), which would also inhibit MLCK activation, all induce astrocytic process growth implicating MLCK as a control point in process initiation. We also found that dBcAMP and ML-9 both cause a decrease in the phosphate content of actin depolymerizing factor, suggesting that this protein and myosin light chain are the effectors of actin cytoskeleton reorganization and process growth.
Intermediate filaments have been isolated from rabbit intradural spinal nerve roots by the axonal flotation method. This method was modified to avoid exposure of axons to low ionic strength medium. The purified filaments are morphologically 75-80 percent pure. The gel electrophoretogram shows four major bands migrating at 200,000, 145,000, 68,000, and 60,000 daltons, respectively. A similar preparation from rabbit brain shows four major polypeptides with mol wt of 200,000 145,000, 68,000, and 51,000 daltons. These results indicate that the neurofilament is composed of a triplet of polypepetides with mol wt of 200,000, 145,000, and 68,000 daltons. The 51,000-dalton band that appears in brain filament preparations as the major polypeptide seems to be of glial origin. The significance of the 60,000- dalton band in the nerve root filament preparation is unclear at this time. Antibodies raised against two of the triplet proteins isolated from calf brain localize by immunofluorescence to neurons in central and peripheral nerve. On the other hand, an antibody to the 51,000-dalton polypeptide gives only glial staining in the brain, and very weak peripheral nerve staining. Prolonged exposure of axons to low ionic strength medium solubilizes almost all of the triplet polypeptides, leaving behind only the 51,000- dalton component. This would indicate that the neurofilament is soluble at low ionic strength, whereas the glial filament is not. These results indicate that neurofilaments and glial filaments are composed of different polypeptides and have different solubility characteristics.