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J Biol Chem. 1994 Jan 28;269(4):2695-702.

Effects of nerve growth factor on rat peritoneal mast cells. Survival promotion and immediate-early gene induction.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Purified rat peritoneal mast cells in vitro die over a period of 2-6 days in conventional serum-containing medium. As mast cells die, they become pyknotic and undergo DNA fragmentation suggestive of an apoptotic process. Treatment of in vitro mast cells with nerve growth factor (NGF) greatly retards and reduces the death of mast cells (EC50 approximately 1 nM), with no effect on mast cell proliferation. Other neurotrophins have no such effect. NGF also induces the immediate early genes c-fos and NGFI-A with a similar dose dependence. In contrast to the secretagogue activity of NGF, neither the survival-promoting effect nor immediate early gene induction requires lysophosphatidylserine. The ability of NGF to promote mast cell survival is cell density-dependent and appears to be primarily because of induction of the synthesis and/or secretion of an autocrine survival factor by stimulated mast cells. These results suggest that the previously observed effects of NGF on mast cell numbers in vivo may in part be because of enhanced survival and that NGF may be an important mediator of mast cell function in normal and pathological states.

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