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J Biol Chem. 2001 Feb 16;276(7):5204-12. Epub 2000 Oct 25.

The BRN-3A transcription factor protects sensory but not sympathetic neurons from programmed cell death/apoptosis.

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  • 1Medical Molecular Biology Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, United Kingdom.


Inactivation of the gene encoding the POU domain transcription factor BRN-3A results in the absence of specific neurons in knockout mice. Here we demonstrate for the first time a direct effect of BRN-3A on the survival of neuronal cells. Specifically, overexpression of BRN-3A in cultured trigeminal ganglion or dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons enhanced their survival following the withdrawal of nerve growth factor. Moreover, reduction of BRN-3A levels impaired the survival of these neurons. The survival of sympathetic neurons was not affected by either approach. Similarly, overexpression of BRN-3A activated the endogenous Bcl-2 gene in trigeminal neurons, but not in sympathetic neurons. The protective effect of BRN-3A on trigeminal neuron survival following nerve growth factor withdrawal significantly increased during embryonic development. In contrast, overexpression of the related factor BRN-3B enhanced survival of trigeminal neurons only at an early stage of embryonic development. Thus, BRN-3A (and in some circumstances, BRN-3B) can promote the survival of nerve growth factor-dependent sensory but not sympathetic neurons, allowing it to play a direct role in the survival of some (but not all) neuronal populations in the developing and adult nervous systems.

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