Selective Expression of Factors Preventing Cholinergic Dedifferentiation

Fernando G. DeMello, Maria C.F. DeMello, Richard Hudson, William L Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Abstract: Chicken retina neurons from 8–9‐day‐old embryos developed prominent cholinergic properties after several days in stationary dispersed cell (monolayer) culture. These cells accumulated [3H]choline by a high‐affinity, hemicholiniumsensitive transport system, converted [3H]choline to [3H]acetylcholine ([3H]ACh), released [3H]ACh in response to depolarization stimuli, and developed choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity to levels comparable to those of the intact retina. The cholinergic state, however, was not permanent. After 7 days in culture, the capacity for [3H]ACh release decreased drastically and continued to diminish with longer culture periods. Loss of this capacity seemed not to be due to loss of cholinergic neurons, because high‐affinity choline uptake was unchanged. However, a substantial decrease of ChAT activity was observed as a function of culture age, and probably accounted for the low level of ACh synthesis in long‐lasting cultures. The loss of ChAT activity could be prevented in at least two different ways: (a) Maintaining the neurons in rotary (aggregate) rather than stationary culture completely blocked the loss of enzyme activity and gave a developmental profile identical to the known “in situ”pattern of differentiation; and (b) Conditioned medium from aggregate cultures significantly reduced the drop in ChAT activity of neurons maintained in stationary, dispersed cell cultures. Activity that stabilized cholinergic differentiation was nondialyzable, heat‐sensitive, and not mimicked by functional nerve growth factor. Production of activity by aggregates was developmentally regulated; medium obtained from aggregates after 3 days in culture had no effect on cholinergic differentiation, whereas medium obtained from aggregates between 6 and 10 days in culture produced a fivefold increase of ChAT in monolayers. The data suggest that retinal cholinergic neurons must receive external signals at a critical window during development in order to stabilize initial ChAT expression, that intrinsic cells of the retina produce the diffusible cholinergic‐sustaining activity, and that production of activity is dependent upon appropriate cell‐cell interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-892
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990


  • Aggregate cultures
  • Chick retina
  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Cholinergic interneurons.
  • Differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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