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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jan 4;91(1):43-7.

Neuropoietic cytokines and activin A differentially regulate the phenotype of cultured sympathetic neurons.

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  • 1Biology Division, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


A number of cytokines sharing limited sequence homology have been grouped as a family because of partially overlapping biological activities, receptor subunit promiscuity, and the prediction of a shared secondary structure. Since several of these cytokines regulate gene expression and cell number in the nervous and hematopoietic systems, this specific group is termed the neuropoietic cytokine family. Using a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction-based assay system for monitoring the expression of multiple phenotypic markers in cultured sympathetic neurons, we present further evidence that, in addition to cholinergic differentiation factor/leukemia inhibitory factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor, oncostatin M, growth promoting activity, interleukin 6, and interleukin 11 belong in this family. In addition, one member of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily, activin A, shares a selective overlap with the neuropoietic family in the spectrum of neuropeptides that it induces in sympathetic neurons. The particular neuropeptides induced by activin A, however, demonstrate that the activity of this cytokine is distinct from that of the neuropoietic family. Twenty-six other cytokines and growth factors were without detectable activity in this assay.

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