Activin and bone morphogenetic proteins are present in perinatal sensory neuron target tissues that induce neuropeptides

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neurobiology








Activin; Bone morphogenetic protein; Calcitonin gene-related peptide; Dorsal root ganglion; Intestine; Neuropeptide; Noggin; Sensory neuron; Skin; Target-derived factor; Transforming growth factor beta


Previous studies have shown that sensory target tissues induce neuropeptides in naïve sensory neurons, and that activin and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are capable of inducing neuropeptides associated with nociception in embryonic sensory neurons in vitro. The goal of the present study was to learn if these ligands were available in native sensory neuron target tissues at correct developmental periods to play this inductive role in vivo. Sensory neurons initially contact their peripheral target tissues and begin to express neuropeptides during late embryogenesis, and we demonstrate that activin and BMPs are present in the embryo and neonate to regulate sensory neuron differentiation. Native embryonic and neonatal target tissues were analyzed by immunoblot and immunohistochemical studies using ligand-specific antibodies. Although activin was easily solubilized, BMPs were detected only after high salt extraction, suggesting that BMPs were bound to extracellular moieties and were capable of acting only locally in native tissues. One inhibitor, noggin, was present in both embryonic skin and muscle. In combination, these data suggest that neuronal differentiation is unlikely to be regulated by simple expression of ligand, but that the functional availability of ligand is a critical component confering biological activity. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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