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Development. 1991 Jul;112(3):813-20.

Retinoic acid induces NGF-dependent survival response and high-affinity NGF receptors in immature chick sympathetic neurons.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry, Department of Neurochemistry, Planegg-Martinsried, Federal Republic of Germany.


An important step in the development of peripheral sensory and sympathetic neurons is the onset of the survival response and dependence on the presence of nerve growth factor (NGF) or other neurotrophic factors. We have recently observed that immature sympathetic neurons from 7-day-old chick embryos are unable to become NGF-responsive in vitro and we have now used these cells to identify molecules that induce NGF-dependent neuronal survival. We found that retinoic acid (RA) induces the ability of these cells to survive in the presence of NGF. At RA concentrations of 10(-9)-10(-8)M virtually all neurons survived in the presence of NGF. RA was found to also induce the biologically active, high-affinity NGF receptor: high-affinity receptors were undetectable on dissociated E7 sympathetic neurons and were observed in vitro only in RA-treated neurons. These findings suggest that the induction of high-affinity NGF receptors may be sufficient to activate the survival response in sympathetic neurons and imply an important role for RA during neuron differentiation in the peripheral nervous system.

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