Dividing neuron precursors express neuron‐specific tubulin

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neurobiology








dorsal root ganglion; mitosis; neuroblast; neuronal precursors; sympathetic ganglion; tubulin


Neuronal differentiation involves specific molecular and morphological changes in precursors and results in mature, postmitotic neurons. The expression of neuron‐specific β tubulin, as detected by the monoclonal antibody TuJ1, begins during the period of neurogenesis. Indeed, TuJ1 expression precedes that of the 160 kD neurofilament protein in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. In the embryonic rat spinal cord, bipolar cells and some mitotic cells in the ventricular zone were TuJ1 immunoreactive (IR). Sensory ganglia also contained cells with TuJ1‐IR mitotic spindles in situ. In embryonic rat sensory and sympathetic ganglion cell cultures pulsed with the thymidine analog bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), TuJ1 label was detected in the spindle of mitotic cells and in the midbody of cells joined at cytokinesis, indicating that neuron‐specific tubulin expression was initiated during or before the final mitosis of neuronal progenitors. Dorsal root ganglion cultures included TuJ1‐IR cells with several shapes that may reflect morphological transitions, from flattened stellate neural crest‐like cells to differentiated bipolar neurons. Indeed, the presence of flattened TuJ1‐IR cells was correlated with neurogenesis. Some sympathetic neuron precursors possessed long TuJ1‐IR neurites, as well as TuJ1‐IR spindle microtubules and BrdU‐labeled chromosomes, indicating that these precursors can possess long processes during metaphase. These results support the hypothesis that neuron‐specific tubulin expression represents an early molecular event in neuronal differentiation exhibited by a wide range of neuronal precursors. The cessation of proliferation can occur at different points during neuronal differentiation, as TuJ1‐IR was detected in cells undergoing mitosis. Future studies directed toward understanding the molecules that initiate neuron‐specific tubulin expression may lead to the factors that control the initial phases of neuronal differentiation. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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