Trophic Control of Central Cholinergic Neuron Development In Vitro
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The known role of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the function of the peripheral nervous system supports the concept that neuron-target interactions essential for a given neuron or neural connection to survive during development are based on the production and release of specific trophic molecules by the target area and their action on the innervating neurons (Thoenen and Edgar, 1985; Purves, 1986). Findings obtained during the past decade suggest that NGF plays such a role also in the central nervous system. Actions of NGF on the cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain and the corpus striatum are well characterized and distribution and developmental changes of NGF and its receptor in the CNS have been extensively investigated (reviews: Thoenen et al., 1987; Whittemore and Seiger, 1987; Hefti et al., 1989). The data are compatible with the view that NGF serves as a target derived survival factor for basal forebrain neurons. However, it is still not known, whether there is neural cell death during development of the basal forebrain or striatal cholinergic system and whether the availability of NGF indeed regulates the number of cholinergic neurons. Furthermore, the selectivity of the action of NGF in the central nervous system remains one of the principal unresolved questions. While the distribution of NGF and its receptor suggest actions of NGF on neurons other than the cholinergic ones (Buck et al., 1988; Ernfors et al., 1988; Schatteman et al., 1988; Yan and Johnson, 1988; Large et al., 1989), no other NGF-responsive central populations nave been identified with certainty yet.
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