Expression of nerve growth factor in vivo from a defective herpes simplex virus 1 vector prevents effects of axotomy on sympathetic ganglia

Howard J. Federoff*, Michael D. Geschwind, Alfred I. Geller, John A. Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Sympathetic neurons in the superior cervical ganglion (SCG) of adult rats depend on target-derived nerve growth factor (NGF) for maintenance of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) levels and the noradrenergic neurotransmitter system. Axotomy of a SCG results in NGF deprivation, causing a decline in TH activity; continuous local application of NGF can prevent this decline in TH activity. We now report that injection of a defective herpes simplex virus 1 vector that expresses NGF (pHSVngf) into a SCG can prevent the decline in TH activity that follows axotomy. SCG of adult rats were injected with either pHSVngf virus or pNFlac virus, which expresses Escherichia coli β-galactosidase. Analysis of RNA from pHSVngf-infected SCG indicated that the NGF gene was efficiently transcribed and processed. Furthermore, 4 days after pHSVngf injection animals underwent axotomy of the virus-injected SCG. After another 10 days, animals were sacrificed and both the injected-axotomized and contralateral control ganglia were assayed for TH activity. Axotomy of SCG injected with pNFlac virus produced a 50% decline in TH activity relative to control ganglia (P = 0.02). In contrast, SCG injected with pHSVngf virus did not show a decline in TH activity following axotomy; instead, these ganglia manifested an 18% increase in TH levels relative to control ganglia. These data demonstrate that herpes simplex virus 1 vectors can be used to modify neuronal physiology in vivo; specifically, expression of a critical gene product by neural cells that do not normally produce it has potential applications for gene therapy. (.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1636-1640
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1992


  • Gene therapy
  • Gene transfer
  • Neurotrophic factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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