Thymocytes as Potential Target Cells for Nerve Growth Factor
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is the best characterized protein regulating development in the nervous system (Levi Montalcini 1952; Calissano et al. 1984). It exerts a crucial role in the survival and differentiation of neural crest-derived cells such as sensory, sympathetic and chromaffin cells. However, NGF deprivation during fetal life results not only in a dramatic degeneration of these cells in the neonates, but also in a complex neuroendocrine deficiency (Aloe et al. 1981; Johnson et al. 1980). This led to the suggestion that the action of NGF may be broader than at first envisaged. Furthermore, it has been recently shown that NGF might also promote the growth and the differentiation of mast cells (Aloe and Levi Montalcini 1977). Prompted by such observations and by a more general interest in the relatedness between the nervous and the immune system, I investigated the possibility that new target cells for NGF hitherto unrecognized may be found among lymphoid cells. The results, which will be presented below, show that a well-defined subset of rat thymocytes possess membrane receptors for NGF and allow one to postulate that NGF may play a role in the maturation and/or differentiation of such cells.
KeywordsLeukemia Mast Concanavalin
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