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Dev Biol. 1991 Apr;144(2):429-35.

Differential susceptibilities of spinal cord neurons to retinoic acid-induced survival and differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.


In a previous study, we demonstrated trophic effects of vitamin A and its active metabolite, retinoic acid (RA), on perinatal rat spinal cord neurons and astrocytes in vitro. We now report that RA increases the survival of cholinergic neurons without affecting that of GABAergic neurons. These results were supported by measured levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) activities, key enzymes of acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid metabolism, respectively, which showed RA-induced increases in AChE and ChAT levels but no elevations of GAD activity. In contrast to these phenotype-specific effects, most neurons showed RA-induced increases in neuritic outgrowth, density, and silver impregnation. Taken together, these results demonstrate neurotransmitter-specific and generalized effects of RA on developing CNS neurons.

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