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J Neurobiol. 1992 Nov;23(9):1205-20.

Biochemical characterization of programmed cell death in NGF-deprived sympathetic neurons.

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


Young sympathetic neurons die when deprived of nerve growth factor (NGF). Under such circumstances, cell death is appropriate to the developing nervous system and requires RNA and protein synthesis. We have hypothesized the existence of an endogenous death program within neurons that is suppressed by trophic factors. The extent and timing of required changes in the synthetic events that comprise the death program are unknown. In an effort to characterize the biochemical events that mediate the death program further, we performed several experiments on embryonic rat sympathetic neurons in vitro. The death program was blocked with cycloheximide when total protein synthesis was inhibited > or = 80%. When protein synthesis was inhibited within 22 +/- 4 h of NGF deprivation, death was prevented in half the neurons. Hence, we define the commitment point for protein synthesis to be 22 +/- 4 h. Analogously, the commitment point for RNA synthesis was 26 +/- 4 h and that for NGF rescue, 24 +/- 4 h. We tested the ability of a wide variety of chemicals to interfere with the death program. Most compounds tested were unable to prevent neuronal death. Some treatments, however, did save NGF-deprived neurons and were subsequently characterized. These included ultraviolet light and agents that raise intracellular concentrations of cAMP. Finally, we looked for the neuronal expression in vitro and in vivo of genes that have been associated with programmed death in other cell types, including TRPM-2/SGP-2, polyubiquitin, TGF beta-1, c-fos, and c-myc. None of these genes showed significant activation associated with neuronal death.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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