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Dev Biol. 1986 Nov;118(1):222-32.

Coordinate regulation of the expression of axonal proteins by the axonal microenvironment.


The axonal functions that act in the formation of the neuronal network have been shown to occur in close interdependence with the tissue that surrounds the growing axons. However, little is known about the molecular building blocks underlying axonal functions, although more than 400 axonal proteins have been identified. In view of the existence of such a large number of axonal proteins, we have initiated a project to determine the molecules involved in the implementation of particular axonal functions by a selective approach. On the assumption that plasticity in the expression of axonal functions in response to specific features of the local axonal environment may be based on changes in the expression of particular axonal proteins, the axonal proteins of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons were screened for those whose expression responds to environmental influences. DRG neurons were grown in a compartmental cell system that offers separate access to neuronal somas and to their axons and the axons were locally exposed to different populations of cells from the peripheral or central nervous system. The axonal proteins were metabolically labeled and subjected to two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Computerized quantitation of the individual axonal proteins revealed that the cocultured cells modulate the synthesis of a few axonal proteins of DRG neurons differentially. The data on the abundance of the newly expressed proteins under varying local environmental conditions were condensed as expression profiles. Comparison of expression profiles and cluster analysis of quantitative gel analysis data revealed that the environmentally modulated proteins subdivide into clusters with common distinct expression profiles under the influence of nonneuronal cells from the peripheral nervous system, nonneuronal cells of the central nervous system, and spinal cord cells, which are composed of neurons and nonneuronal cells. By means of this new, characteristic attribute assigned to environmentally modulated axonal proteins, working hypotheses were made as to their functional role.

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