Relationship of Intracellular Calcium to Dependence on Nerve Growth Factor in Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons in Cell Culture

Marc E. Eichler, Janet M. Dubinsky, Keith M. Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Abstract: During development, neural crest‐derived sensory neurons require nerve growth factor (NGF) for survival, but lose this dependency postnatally. Similarly, dissociated embryonic sensory neurons lose their NGF dependence during the first 3 weeks in cell culture. It has been hypothesized that, in sympathetic neurons, intracellular levels of calcium are related to trophic factor dependence. In vitro during the period in which embryonic‐day‐15 sensory neurons become independent of NGF, intracellular calcium concentrations progressively increased in parallel to the decline in NGF dependence. This elevation of intracellular calcium was directly related to the absolute age of the neurons, not to the length of time in culture. Without NGF, immature sensory, i.e., dependent, neurons survived in the presence of high extracellular potassium, a condition that produces elevated intracellular calcium. In another paradigm, measurements of intracellular calcium were determined in NGF‐dependent neurons “committed to die'’ after NGF withdrawal. These measurements were determined prior to the time that extensive morphological changes, consistent with cell death, were noted by phase‐contrast microscopy. No elevation in intracellular calcium was found in these dying neurons, but rather, a small decrease was observed prior to the disintegration of the neurons. These findings support the hypothesis that trophic factor dependence of neurons may be inversely related to levels of intracellular calcium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992


  • Intracellular calcium
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Sensory neurons


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