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J Neurosci Res. 1989 Apr;22(4):473-87.

Neurotransmitter phenotype plasticity in cultured dissociated adult rat dorsal root ganglia: an immunocytochemical study.

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Services de Neurologie, University of Li├Ęge, Belgium.


Culturing sympathetic ganglion neurons in vitro may modify phenotypic expression of some neurotransmitters. For dorsal root ganglia (DRG), contradictory results have been reported; most studies have used immature material. We have therefore performed a detailed immunocytochemical analysis of the transmitter content of cultured adult rat DRG neurons. To demonstrate possible modifications of neurotransmitter phenotypes, we have compared the results obtained with the same techniques on neurons cultured for 3 days and on freshly dissociated DRG cells. Also, the transmitter profile of cultured neurons was compared with that known from in situ studies. Out of 22 antigens studied, 20 were detected in cultured DRG neurons. All of them were expressed in small and/or intermediate-sized cells. Large neurons only contained CGRP, VIP, NPY, beta-END, ENK, and GABA. The percentage of immunostained neurons varied for the various antisera: less than 10% of cultured neurons were positive for ENK, beta-LPH, beta-END, DYN, VASO, and OXY; 10-30% for SOM, CCK, CAT, and SP; and greater than 30% for NPY, CRF, GLU, NT, VIP, GABA, GRP, CGRP, 5-HT, and TRH. In the latter two groups of transmitters (except CGRP), the proportion of immunoreactive neurons was by far larger in cultured than in freshly dissociated DRG. The most pronounced (greater than 25%) increase in the proportion of positively stained neurons after culturing was observed for the GRP, CRF, TRH, and 5-HT antisera. Serotonin was the only transmitter identified in cultured but not in freshly dissociated cells. These data indicate, on one hand, that various antigens, for example, CAT, GABA, NT, TRH, NPY, beta-LPH, and beta-END, which up to now have not been described in DRG in situ, can be detected immunocytochemically a few hours after dissociation of adult rat DRG. On the other hand, several transmitters, for example, VIP, NPY, SP, GABA, GLU, NT, GRP, CRF, TRH, and 5-HT, are expressed in a significantly higher proportion of cells in cultured than in freshly dissociated preparations. This might reflect a change in the phenotypic expression of transmitters due to the new environment generated by the culture conditions, a hypothesis that can be tested by measuring specific mRNA levels. Moreover, considering the plasticity and multipotentiality of their transmitter phenotype, cultured adult DRG neurons might represent an interesting material for autografts into the injured central nervous system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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