Nerve growth factor stimulates development of substance P in the embryonic spinal cord

John A. Kessler*, Ira B. Black

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Development of the putative neurotransmitter, substance P (SP), in the embryonic rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord was defined in vivo. SP was not detectable by radioimmunoassay before day 17 of gestation (E17). On E17, cervical sensory ganglia contained 4 pg SP/ganglion, rising to 49 pg/ganglion at birth. The dorsal cervical spinal cord contained 0.75 ng SP/mg protein on E17, rising to 6 ng SP/mg protein on postnatal day 3. The ventral spinal cord contained approximately 20% of the SP content in the dorsal spinal cord at each gestational age. Intrauterine forelimb amputation partially prevented the normal developmental increase of SP in sensory ganglia destined to innervate that limb, suggesting that target structures regulate the development of peptidergic neurons. Conversely, treatment with nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulated development of SP in the DRG. Moreover, NGF treatment increased SP in the dorsal spinal cord, suggesting that NGF can modulate development within the CNS, as well as peripheral structures. It is likely that the CNS effect reflects NGF action on peripheral ganglia, but a direct effect on the spinal cord has not been excluded. However, treatment with antiserum to NGF failed to significantly inhibit development of ganglion SP. The system of SP-containing neurons in the DRG may provide a convenient model for defining events regulating peptidergic maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 9 1981


  • development
  • embryonic spinal cord
  • nerve growth factor
  • substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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