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Dev Biol. 1992 Jul;152(1):121-32.

Transforming growth factor beta has neurotrophic actions on sensory neurons in vitro and is synergistic with nerve growth factor.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.


Transforming growth factor beta (TGF beta) influences the growth and differentiation of a wide variety of nonneuronal cells (nnc) during embryogenesis and in response to wounding. In the present study TGF beta 1 and TGF beta 2 were examined for their neurotrophic actions on neonatal rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons with ganglionic nnc in dissociated cultures. TGF beta 1 and TGF beta 2 each increased both neuronal survival and levels of the peptide neurotransmitter substance P (SP) expressed per neuron as well as per culture. TGF beta 1 was maximally effective at a concentration of 40 pM, whereas TGF beta 2 was about 10-fold less potent. Survival effects promoted by simultaneous treatment with both factors were not additive. TGF beta 1 also changed the morphology and distribution of DRG nnc which resulted in clustering of DRG neurons on top of the nnc. Cotreatment of the cultures with two different anti-nerve growth factor (NGF) antibodies eliminated the neurotrophic effects of TGF beta 1. However, treatment with TGF beta 1 did not alter NGF mRNA expression in the cultures nor did it change the amount of NGF in the medium. Further, TGF beta 1 greatly enhanced survival effects and SP stimulation promoted by exogenous NGF at concentrations up to 100 ng/ml. The neurotrophic effects of TGF beta 1 were significantly attenuated by decreasing the proportion of the ganglionic nnc, suggesting a role for these cells in mediating TGF beta 1 action on the neurons. It is hypothesized that the neurotrophic activity of TGF beta depended upon the presence of molecules immunologically related to NGF and that the effects of TGF beta were synergistic with NGF. These observations suggest that TGF beta may play a role in the differentiation and regeneration of DRG neurons in vivo.

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