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J Physiol. 1979 Jul;292:85-105.

The function of the sodium pump during differentiation of amphibian embryonic neurones.


1. A method has been developed for studying the differentiation in tissue culture of ectoderm and mesoderm derivatives, dissected from amphibian embryos which have just completed neurulation. 2. Neurones, striated muscle cells and pigment cells, together with other unidentifiable cell types, differentiated as a monolayer with approximately the same time course as in the whole embryo. The proportion of different cell types in the cultures was measured quantitatively by cell counting. 3. Treatment of embryos during neurulation with the cardiac glycoside strophanthidin reduced the number of neurones which subsequently differentiated in culture. Other cell types were not affected. 4. The relationship between inhibition of neural differentiation and strophanthidin concentration was sigmoid, with maximum inhibition at 10(-5) M-strophanthidin and the mid-point at 5 X 10(-7) M-strophanthidin. 35% of neurones differentiating in culture were not affected by glycoside treatment. 5. The glycoside hexahydroscillaren A had no effect on neural differentiation. 6. Increasing extracellular potassium to 100 nM during strophanthidin treatment completely protected differentiating neurones from the inhibitory effect of strophanthidin. 7. Treatment of embryos with 100 mM-KCl during neurulation had no effect on the subsequent differentiation of neurones. 8. Treatment of cultures with an antibody to mouse salivary gland Nerve Growth Factor reduced the number of neurones by 30%. 9. Exposure to strophanthidin while the embryo moved from the early neural fold stage to the late neural fold stage was as effective in reducing subsequent neural differentiation as treatment throughout neurulation. 10. The proportion of nerve cells in the cultures was not affected if strophanthidin treatment ended before the early neural fold stage or did not begin until the late neural fold stage. 11. Embryos treated with strophanthidin during neurulation and then allowed to grow into tadpoles developed abnormal nervous systems. 10(-6) M-strophanthidin had little effect on the volume of grey matter, but reduced the white matter by 50%. 12. The results are consistent with the view that strophanthidin achieves its effect on neural differentiation by inhibiting the sodium pump. They are discussed in the light of the suggestion that activation of the sodium pump is an essential part of nerual differentiation.

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