Induction of nerve growth factor receptor in Schwann cells after axotomy

M. Taniuchi, H. B. Clark, E. M. Johnson

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We have discovered that axotomy of sciatic nerve induces Schwann cells distal to the lesion to express de novo, or at greatly increased levels, receptors for nerve growth factor (NGF). Surgical transection of sciatic nerve was performed on adult Sprague-Dawley rats, and, at various times after the operation, the following tissues were dissected for quantitation of NGF receptor: L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia, sciatic nerve proximal to the transection, sciatic nerve distal to the transection, tibialis anterior muscle, and skin of the dorsum of the foot. The NGF receptor content of these samples was determined by labeling receptor molecules with radioiodinated NGF (125I-NGF) and then specifically immunoprecipitating the 125I-NGF-receptor complexes with 192-IgG, a monoclonal antibody directed against the rat NGF receptor. We observed a time-dependent increase in the amount of radioligand-labeled NGF receptor proteins found in the distal segment of transected sciatic nerve; by 7 days the density of receptor (crosslinked 125I-NGF molecules per mg of homogenate protein) had increased at least 50-fold. The number of receptor molecules in tibialis anterior muscle and dorsal foot skin, two structures denervated by the transection, also increased, with time courses parallel to that of distal sciatic nerve. There was little increase in the density of NGF receptors in the sciatic nerve proximal to the lesion and in the dorsal root ganglia. Immunohistochemical examination of the distal portion of transected sciatic nerve and of the muscle, with 192-IgG as the primary ligand, revealed prominent and exclusive staining of apparently all Schwann cells of the endoneurium, indicating that these peripheral neuroglial cells were expressing NGF receptors. These results show that axonal damage can induce the expression of NGF receptors in the population of sheath cells thought to promote neuronal regeneration. This dramatic increase in NGF receptors may be a mechanism to facilitate the regeneration of NGF-responsive neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4094-4098
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1986


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