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Dev Biol. 1988 Feb;125(2):280-9.

In vitro neurite extension by granule neurons is dependent upon astroglial-derived fibroblast growth factor.

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Department of Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, New York 10016.


When grown in the absence of astroglial cells, purified mouse cerebellar granule neurons survive less than 36 hr and do not extend neurites. Here we report that low concentrations of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF, 1-25 ng/ml) maintained the viability and promoted the differentiation of purified granule neurons. The effect of bFGF on granule cell neurite outgrowth was dose dependent. Neurite outgrowth was stimulated markedly in the presence of 1-25 ng/ml bFGF, but effects were not seen below 1 ng/ml or above 50 ng/ml. When affinity-purified antibodies against bFGF (1-5 micrograms/ml) were added either to purified granule cells or to co-cultures of neurons and astroglial cells, process extension by granule neurons was severely impaired. The inhibition of neurite outgrowth in the presence of anti-bFGF antibodies was reversed by the addition of 25 ng/ml of exogenous bFGF. In addition to neuronotrophic effects, bFGF influenced the rate of growth of the astroglial cells. This result depended on whether the astroglia were grown in isolation from neurons, where low doses of bFGF (10-25 ng) stimulated glial growth, or in coculture with neurons, where much higher doses of bFGF (100-250 ng/ml) were needed for glial mitogenesis. Immunoprecipitation of lysates from 35S-labeled cerebellar astroglial cells with anti-bFGF antibodies revealed a single band after SDS-PAGE at 18,000 Da, the molecular weight of bFGF. These results indicate that glial cells synthesize bFGF and are possibly an endogenous source of bFGF in cerebellar cultures. Thus, astroglial cells synthesize soluble factors needed for neuronal differentiation.

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