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Dev Biol. 2006 Nov 15;299(2):303-9. Epub 2006 Aug 16.

The role of activin in neuropeptide induction and pain sensation.

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Department of Neuroscience, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Signals from target tissues play critical roles in the functional differentiation of neuronal cells, and in their subsequent adaptations to peripheral changes in the adult. Sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) provide an excellent model system for the study of signals that regulate the development of neuronal diversity. DRG have been well characterized and contain both neurons that convey information from muscles about limb position, as well as other neurons that provide sensations from skin about pain information. Sensory neurons involved in pain sensation can be distinguished physiologically and antigenically, and one hallmark characteristic is that these neurons contain neuropeptides important for their functions. The transforming growth factor (TGF) beta family member activin A has recently been implicated in neural development and response to injury. During sensory neuron development, peripheral target tissues containing activin or activin itself can regulate pain neuropeptide expression. Long after development has ceased, skin target tissues retain the capacity to signal neurons about changes or injury, to functionally refine synapses. This review focuses on the role of activin as a target-derived differentiative factor in neural development that has additional roles in response to cutaneous injuries in the adult.

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