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Dev Biol. 1990 Feb;137(2):233-42.

Developmental regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase expression in primary sensory neurons of the rat.

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Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106.

Erratum in

  • Dev Biol 1990 Jul;140(1):229-30.


The regulation of transmitter phenotype in primary sensory neurons remains poorly understood. However, recent studies of catecholaminergic (CA) sensory neurons suggest that expression of this particular phenotype may be related to innervation of specific peripheral tissues. In the glossopharyngeal petrosal ganglion (PG) of adult rats, for example, the vast majority of CA sensory neurons innervate a single target, the carotid body. The present study was undertaken, therefore, to begin investigating factors that underlie CA differentiation in sensory neurons, using the rat PG as a model system. Immunocytochemical, biochemical, and morphometric methods were used to investigate the normal time course of CA development in the PG in vivo, employing tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) as a phenotypic marker. These studies revealed two temporally distinct waves of TH expression during embryogenesis. TH immunoreactivity was initially detectable on Embryonic Day (E) 11.5; the number of stained cells increased markedly by E12.5 and then fell off sharply to near 0 by E15.5. Simultaneous immunostaining for TH and neurofilament proteins revealed a high proportion of double-labeled perikarya on E12.5, indicating that the transiently TH-positive cells are neurons. A second, sustained phase of TH expression began on E16.5, and by Postnatal Day 1 adult numbers of TH-containing ganglion cells were present. Western blot analysis demonstrated that TH levels per cell rose 3.5-fold in the perinatal period, indicating that maturation of this particular catecholaminergic trait in PG sensory neurons is highly regulated around birth. Morphometric techniques were used to define the relationship between neurons that transiently exhibit TH immunoreactivity early in gangliogenesis and those that maintain enzyme expression in the mature PG. These studies revealed separate and distinct growth curves for the early and late TH cells, respectively, demonstrating that the appearance, disappearance, and reappearance of immunoreactive cells reflects the differentiation of two separate populations of PG neurons. Moreover, these data indicate that TH expression in the population of CA cells that persists in the mature PG begins around E16.5. This is after peripheral target innervation has begun, raising the possibility that neuron-target interactions regulate biochemical differentiation of these CA sensory neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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