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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 1987; 84(23): 8735–8739.
PMCID: PMC299621

Differential regulation of mRNA encoding nerve growth factor and its receptor in rat sciatic nerve during development, degeneration, and regeneration: role of macrophages.


In newborn rats the levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) mRNA (mRNANGF) and NGF receptor mRNA (mRNA(rec)) in the sciatic nerve were 10 and 120 times higher, respectively, than in adult animals. mRNA(rec) levels decreased steadily from birth, approaching adult levels by the third postnatal week, whereas mRNANGF levels decreased only after the first postnatal week, although also reaching adult levels by the third week. Transection of the adult sciatic nerve resulted in a marked biphasic increase in mRNANGF with time. On the proximal side of the cut, this increase was confined to the area immediately adjacent to the cut; peripherally, a similar biphasic increase was present in all segments. mRNA(rec) levels were also markedly elevated distal to the transection site, in agreement with previous results obtained by immunological methods [Taniuchi, M., Clark, H. B. & Johnson, E. M., Jr. (1986) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83, 4094-4098]. Following a crush lesion (allowing regeneration), the mRNA(rec) levels were rapidly down-regulated as the regenerating nerve fibers passed through the distal segments. Down-regulation of mRNANGF also occurred during regeneration but was slower and not as extensive as that of mRNA(rec) over the time period studied. Changes in mRNANGF and mRNA(rec) occurring in vivo after transection were compared with those observed in pieces of sciatic nerve kept in culture. No difference was found for mRNA(rec). Only the initial rapid increase in mRNANGF occurred in culture, but the in vivo situation could be mimicked by the addition of activated macrophages. This reflects the situation in vivo where, after nerve lesion, macrophages infiltrate the area of the Wallerian degeneration. These results suggest that mRNANGF synthesis in sciatic non-neuronal cells is regulated by macrophages, whereas mRNA(rec) synthesis is determined by axonal contact.

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