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Neuroscience. 1999;92(1):227-35.

Characterization of bone morphogenetic protein family members as neurotrophic factors for cultured sensory neurons.

By: Farkas LM, Jászai J, Unsicker K, Krieglstein K.

The bone morphogenetic proteins have been implicated in several inductive processes throughout vertebrate development including nervous system patterning. Recently, these proteins have also emerged as candidates for regulating survival of mesencephalic dopaminergic and sympathetic neurons. Interestingly, we have found that several bone morphogenetic proteins can be detected in developing embryonic day 14 rat dorsal root ganglia by means of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunocytochemistry. To further elucidate their potential role during the period of ontogenetic neuron death, serum-free cultures of dorsal root sensory neurons from developing chick and rat embryos were treated with distinct bone morphogenetic proteins with or without simultaneous addition of other "established" neurotrophic factors. Our results show that bone morphogenetic proteins exert survival promoting effects on their own, and that they can positively modulate the effects of neurotrophins on sensory neurons. In particular, growth/differentiation factor-5, bone morphogenetic protein-2, -4, -7 and -12 significantly increased the survival promoting effects of neurotrophin-3 and nerve growth factor on cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons. These results fit well into the current concept that neurotrophic factors may act synergistically in ensuring neuronal survival. Moreover, these data suggest potential instructive interactions of bone morphogentic proteins and neurotrophins during sensory neuron development. Finally, the documented neurotrophic capacity of bone morphogenetic protein family members may have potential relevance for the treatment of peripheral neuropathies.

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