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J Neurosci Res. 1996 Mar 15;43(6):735-44.

B61, a ligand for the Eck receptor protein-tyrosine kinase, exhibits neurotrophic activity in cultures of rat spinal cord neurons.

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La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, CA 92037.


Although the Eph subfamily represents the largest group of receptor protein-tyrosine kinases, the biological roles of the Eph-related receptors and their ligands are not well understood. B61 has been identified recently by receptor affinity chromatography as a ligand for the Eph-related receptor Eck (Bartley et al.: Nature 368:558-560, 1994). Here we show that Eck immunoreactivity is localized in areas of the embryonic rat spinal cord that are rich in axons, suggesting that Eck plays a role in this region of the developing nervous system. To examine the biological function of Eck, monolayer cultures of dissociated cells from embryonic rat spinal cord were treated with soluble B61. With an ED50 of approximately 10 ng/ml, B61 treatment improved the survival of the overall neuronal population. Furthermore, in the presence of B61 neurites were longer and more elaborated. B61 similarly affected survival and neurite length in cultures enriched in motor neurons. These neurotrophic effects of B61 were not observed in the presence of anti-Eck antibodies, indicating that these effects are likely to be mediated by the Eck receptor.

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