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J Cell Biol. 2001 Sep 3;154(5):995-1005. Epub 2001 Aug 27.

Role of PI 3-kinase, Akt and Bcl-2-related proteins in sustaining the survival of neurotrophic factor-independent adult sympathetic neurons.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London NW3 2PF, United Kingdom.


By adulthood, sympathetic neurons have lost dependence on NGF and NT-3 and are able to survive in culture without added neurotrophic factors. To understand the molecular mechanisms that sustain adult neurons, we established low density, glial cell-free cultures of 12-wk rat superior cervical ganglion neurons and manipulated the function and/or expression of key proteins implicated in regulating cell survival. Pharmacological inhibition of PI 3-kinase with LY294002 or Wortmannin killed these neurons, as did dominant-negative Class IA PI 3-kinase, overexpression of Rukl (a natural inhibitor of Class IA PI 3-kinase), and dominant-negative Akt/PKB (a downstream effector of PI 3-kinase). Phospho-Akt was detectable in adult sympathetic neurons grown without neurotrophic factors and this was lost upon PI 3-kinase inhibition. The neurons died by a caspase-dependent mechanism after inhibition of PI 3-kinase, and were also killed by antisense Bcl-xL and antisense Bcl-2 or by overexpression of Bcl-xS, Bad, and Bax. These results demonstrate that PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling and the expression of antiapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family are required to sustain the survival of adult sympathetic neurons.

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