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J Comp Neurol. 1996 Jul 22;371(2):287-99.

Sprouting adult CNS cholinergic axons express NILE and associate with astrocytic surfaces expressing neural cell adhesion molecule.

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Salk Institute, Laboratory of Genetics, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


To assess the cellular and molecular substrates for cholinergic axon growth in the adult central nervous system (CNS), we implanted grafts of control and nerve growth factor (NGF)-producing genetically modified fibroblasts within the striatum of rats. Sprouting cholinergic axonal processes that grew into grafts of NGF-producing fibroblasts were fasciculated and followed the surface of astrocytic processes for long distances within the grafts. The close and long distance anatomical relationship between the sprouted axons and the astrocytes supported previous ultrastructural evidence that astrocytes may serve as a cellular substrate for sprouting cholinergic axons in vivo. The sprouted axon processes were associated with the expression of nerve growth factor-inducible large external (NILE) glycoprotein on their surfaces. NILE expression was not seen in control grafts where there was an absence of cholinergic ingrowth. NILE has been demonstrated to play a role in axon fasciculation in a number of other neural systems. The astrocytic processes in both control and NGF-producing fibroblast grafts expressed neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), suggesting that NCAM-mediated adhesion may be responsible for the close relationship between the axons and astrocytes within the grafts. NGF-induced heterotypic interactions between neuronal NILE and astroglial NCAM may also be required for adult cholinergic axonal sprouting.

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