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J Neurosci. 1997 Mar 15;17(6):2101-11.

Neurotrophins suppress apoptosis induced by deafferentation of an avian motor-cortical region.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1051, USA.


Studies of the developing nervous system led to the general view that growth factors promote neuronal survival in a "retrograde" manner. For example, release of NGF from postsynaptic peripheral targets followed by uptake and retrograde transport by presynaptic neurons provided a widely accepted conceptual framework for the action of neurotrophins. In contrast, although presynaptic or "anterograde" influences on the survival of developing neurons have been recognized for some time, the mechanisms by which afferent input regulates the survival of postsynaptic cells have received considerably less attention. In the forebrain network for learned vocal behavior in zebra finches, lesions of a cortical region for song control, the lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior neostriatum (lMAN), remove presynaptic input to a motor-cortical song region, the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA), and cause massive RA neuron death in young birds that are entering the sensitive period for song learning. Here we report that lesions of lMAN followed by infusions of neurotrophins directly into RA completely suppress neuronal apoptosis in RA. Moreover, we show that lMAN neurons are able to transport neurotrophins in the anterograde direction to RA, that neurotrophin-like immunoreactivity is present in cells in lMAN and RA, and that neurotrophin receptor-like immunoreactivity is present in RA. Expression of neurotrophins in lMAN and RA suggests that lMAN presynaptic input could regulate RA neuron survival by synthesizing, transporting, and releasing neurotrophins anterogradely or by regulating the auto/paracrine release of neurotrophins within RA, or perhaps by both. These data provide the first in vivo demonstration that neurotrophins can prevent the death of deafferented cortical neurons, and they raise the possibility that nonretrograde signaling by neurotrophins may be a common means of promoting neuronal survival in the vertebrate telencephalon. Anterograde and auto/paracrine neurotrophin signaling, along with the more established view that neurotrophins regulate neuron survival via retrograde mechanisms, suggests multidirectional neurotrophin signaling in the vertebrate telencephalon.

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