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Mol Cell Biol. Sep 1987; 7(9): 3156–3167.
PMCID: PMC367950

Identification and characterization of mRNAs regulated by nerve growth factor in PC12 cells.


Differential screening of cDNA libraries was used to detect and prepare probes for mRNAs that are regulated in PC12 rat pheochromocytoma cells by long-term (2-week) treatment with nerve growth factor (NGF). In response to NGF, PC12 cells change from a chromaffin cell-like to a sympathetic-neuron-like phenotype. Thus, one aim of this study was to identify NGF-regulated mRNAs that may be associated with the attainment of neuronal properties. Eight NGF-regulated mRNAs are described. Five of these increase 3- to 10-fold and three decrease 2- to 10-fold after long-term NGF exposure. Each mRNA was characterized with respect to the time course of the NGF response, regulation by agents other than NGF, and rat tissue distribution. Partial sequences of the cDNAs were used to search for homologies to known sequences. Homology analysis revealed that one mRNA (increased 10-fold) encodes the peptide thymosin beta 4 and a second mRNA (decreased 2-fold) encodes tyrosine hydroxylase. Another of the increased mRNAs was very abundant in sympathetic ganglia, barely detectable in brain and adrenals, and undetectable in all other tissues surveyed. One of the decreased mRNAs, by contrast, was very abundant in the adrenals and nearly absent in the sympathetic ganglia. With the exception of fibroblast growth factor, which is the only other agent known to mimic the differentiating effects of NGF on PC12 cells, none of the treatments tested (epidermal growth factor, insulin, dibutyryl cyclic AMP, dexamethasone, phorbol ester, and depolarization) reproduced the regulation observed with NGF. These and additional findings suggest that the NGF-regulated mRNAs may play roles in the establishment of the neuronal phenotype and that the probes described here will be useful to study the mechanism of action of NGF and the development and differentiation of neurons.

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