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Acta Neuropathol. 1996;91(2):209-214.

Human central neurocytoma cells show neuronal physiological properties in vitro.

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Free University of Berlin, Germany.


Central neurocytoma is a rare brain tumor composed of small round synaptophysin-positive cells, suggesting a neuronal origin of these tumor cells. Glial properties are inferred, however, from the observation that the tumor cells exhibit a strong morphological similarity to oligodendroglioma cells and show an astrocytic differentiation in vitro. To test for neuronal or glial physiological properties, we studied cultured neurocytoma cells derived from a surgical specimen from a 44-year-old man, employing the patch-clamp technique. Early primary cultures were composed of morphologically unique bi- or multipolar cells which were positive for synaptophysin and negative for the astrocyte marker glial fibrillary acidic protein. In the majority of these cells, whole-cell membrane current recordings revealed physiological properties of neurons, i.e., a high density of Na+ currents, the capacity to generate action potentials, and the expression of inotropic neurotransmitter receptors. Metabotropic neurotransmitter receptors could be demonstrated by Ca2+ imaging techniques. The remaining bi- or multipolar cells and almost all cells in later culture stages and in vitro passage lacked these neuronal properties and showed physiological features characteristic of glial cells. We conclude that the major population of neurocytoma cells shows physiological properties of neurons and that with time in culture this population is replaced by electrically passive cells.

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