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J Cell Sci Suppl. 1991;15:103-9.

Effect of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) on motoneuron survival.

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Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


We have demonstrated that the extensive degeneration of motoneurons in the rat facial nucleus after transection of the facial nerve in newborn rats can be prevented by local ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) administration. CNTF differs distinctly from known neurotrophic molecules such as NGF, BDNF and NT-3 in both its molecular characteristics (CNTF is a cytosolic rather than a secretory molecule) and its broad spectrum of biological activities. CNTF is expressed selectively by Schwann cells and astrocytes of the peripheral and central nervous system, respectively, but not by target tissues of the great variety of CNTF-responsive neurons. CNTF mRNA is not detectable by Northern blot or PCR analysis during embryonic development and immediately after birth. However, during the second post-natal week, a more than 30-fold increase in CNTF mRNA and protein occurs in the sciatic nerve. Since the period of low CNTF levels in peripheral nerves coincides with that of high vulnerability of motoneurons (i.e. axonal lesion results in degeneration of motoneuron cell bodies), insufficient availability of CNTF may be the reason for the rate of lesion-induced cell death of early post-natal motoneurons. Highly enriched embryonic chick motoneurons in culture are supported at survival rates higher than 60% by CNTF, even in single cell cultures, indicating that CNTF acts directly on motoneurons. In contrast to CNTF, the members of the neurotrophin gene family (NGF, BDNF and NT-3) do not support the survival of motoneurons in culture. However, aFGF and bFGF show distinct survival activities which are additive to those of CNTF, resulting in the survival of virtually all motoneurons cultured in the presence of CNTF and bFGF.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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