Transforming growth factor α, but not epidermal growth factor, promotes the survival of sensory neurons in vitro

Alcmène Chalazonitis, John A. Kessler, Daniel R. Twardzik, Richard S. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Transforming growth factor α (TGFα) is a mitogenic polypeptide that is structurally homologous to epidermal growth factor (EGF) and appears to bind to the same receptor in all systems tested previously. In the present study, TGFα was found to enhance survival and neurite outgrowth of cultured neonatal rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in a dose-dependent manner. This effect was observed with TGFα concentrations as low as 17.8 pM. By contrast, EGF at concentrations up to 83 nM was ineffective. Moreover, EGF did not antagonize the TGFα survival-promoting effect unless present in large excess (500-fold the concentration for which TGFα is effective); even in this case, only partial antagonism was achieved. Survival of neurons from nodose, trigeminal, and sympathetic ganglia was not increased by TGFα. Both a subpopulation of DRG neurons and of macrophages in the cultures bound iodinated TGFα. This binding was inhibited by excess unlabeled TGFα but not EGF. Our data are consistent with the possibilities that the actions of TGFα on DRG neurons occur indirectly via unidentified neurotrophic molecules other than NGF as well as directly on the neurons themselves. Thus, TGFα, in contrast to EGF, may act as a survival or maintenance factor for a subset of rat sensory neurons. Mediation of this neurotrophic effect appears to occur via a new form of TGFα receptor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-594
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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