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Am J Transl Res. 2013;5(1):69-79. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Physically disconnected non-diffusible cell-to-cell communication between neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y and DRG primary sensory neurons.

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Life Sciences Institute, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Los Angeles, USA ; Department of Medicine, Geffen School of Medicine UCLA, Los Angeles, USA.



Cell-cell communication occurs via a variety of mechanisms, including long distances (hormonal), short distances (paracrine and synaptic) or direct coupling via gap junctions, antigen presentation, or ligand-receptor interactions. We evaluated the possibility of neuro-hormonal independent, non-diffusible, physically disconnected pathways for cell-cell communication using dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons.


We assessed intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)]) in primary culture DRG neurons that express ATP-sensitive P2X3, capsaicinsensitive TRPV1 receptors modulated by estradiol. Physically disconnected (dish-in-dish system; inner chamber enclosed) mouse DRG were cultured for 12 hours near: a) media alone (control 1), b) mouse DRG (control 2), c) human neuroblastoma SHSY-5Y cells (cancer intervention), or d) mouse DRG treated with KCl (apoptosis intervention).


Chemosensitive receptors [Ca(2+)](i) signaling did not differ between control 1 and 2. ATP (10 μM) and capsaicin (100nM) increased [Ca(2+)](i) transients to 425.86 + 49.5 nM, and 399.21 ± 44.5 nM, respectively. 17β-estradiol (100 nM) exposure reduced ATP (171.17 ± 48.9 nM) and capsaicin (175.01±34.8 nM) [Ca(2+)](i) transients. The presence of cancer cells reduced ATP- and capsaicin-induced [Ca(2+)](i) by >50% (p<0.05) and abolished the 17β-estradiol effect. By contrast, apoptotic DRG cells increased initial ATP-induced [Ca(2+)](i), flux four fold and abolished subsequent [Ca(2+)](i), responses to ATP stimulation (p<0.001). Capsaicin (100nM) induced [Ca(2+)](i) responses were totally abolished.


The local presence of apoptotic DRG or human neuroblastoma cells induced differing abnormal ATP and capsaicin-mediated [Ca(2+)](i) fluxes in normal DRG. These findings support physically disconnected, non-diffusible cell-to-cell signaling. Further studies are needed to delineate the mechanism(s) of and model(s) of communication.


Cell-cell communication; DRG; P2X3; SH-SY5Y; TRPV1


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