Developmental regulation of apoptosis in dorsal root ganglion neurons

Michael A. Vogelbaum, Jianxin X. Long, Keith M. Rich

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The survival of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, both in vivo and in vitro, is dependent on the availability of nerve growth factor (NGF) for a transient period early in development after which these neurons become independent of NGF for survival. The precise molecular mechanism by which developing DRG neurons gain independence from NGF has not been determined. We used an in vitro model of DRG neuronal development to test hypotheses that independence from NGF in mature DRG neurons could be caused by developmental regulation of either elements of the NGF withdrawal signal transduction pathway or of proteins important for activation of the apoptosis output pathway. Interruption of phosphotidylinositol-3 kinase activation, by treatment with the specific inhibitor LY294002, resulted in apoptosis in immature but not mature DRG neurons in a manner similar to that observed with NGF withdrawal. Further downstream along the signal transduction pathway, c- JUN phosphorylation occurred in both immature and mature DRG neurons after NGF withdrawal or treatment with LY294002, despite the fact that the older neurons did not undergo apoptosis. In contrast, the ratio of expression of the proapoptotic gene bax to antiapoptotic gene bcl-x(L) was many times higher in immature than mature neurons, both in vivo and in vitro. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that developmental regulation of NGF withdrawal-induced apoptosis in DRG occurs via control of the relative level of expression of members of the bcl-2 gene family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8928-8935
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 1998


  • Bcl-2 gene family
  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Phosphotidylinositol-3 kinase
  • c-JUN


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