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J Neurosci. 1996 Aug 1;16(15):4662-72.

Synchronous onset of NGF and TrkA survival dependence in developing dorsal root ganglia.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Nervous System Injury, Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Determinations of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron loss in nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) null mutant mice have supported the concept that neurons can switch neurotrophin dependence by revealing that many neurons must require both of these factors acting either sequentially or simultaneously during development. The situation is complex, however, in that NT-3(-/-) mutant mice show far greater neuron loss than mice deficient in the NT-3 receptor TrkC, suggesting that NT-3 may support many DRG neurons via actions on the NGF receptor TrkA. To assess the possibility of ligand-receptor cross-talk as a developmental mechanism, we have compared the onset of survival dependence of lumbar DRG neurons on NT-3, TrkC, NGF, and TrkA signaling in mice deficient in these molecules as a result of gene targeting. At embryonic day 11.5 (E11.5), virtually all lumbar DRG cells express TrkC mRNA and many require NT-3 and TrkC signaling for survival. In contrast, although many lumbar DRG cells also express TrkA at E11.5, there is little survival dependence on TrkA signaling. By E13.5, most lumbar DRG cells have downregulated TrkC mRNA. The onset of survival dependence on NGF and TrkA-signaling is concurrent and of equal magnitude at E13.5, demonstrating that NT-3 alone does not support DRG neurons via TrkA, nor can NT-3 compensate for the loss of NGF. We conclude that many murine DRG cells require NT-3 activation of TrkA is unimportant to these early NT-3 survival-promoting actions. We suggest that the discrepancy in cell loss between NT-3(-/-) and trkC(-/-) mutants is attributable to the ability of NT-3 to support DRG neurons via TrkA in the artificial situation where TrkC is absent.

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