Effects of retinoic acid on NB 69 human neuroblastoma cells and fetal rat mid brain neurons

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Summary

Retinoids are chemical compounds which play important roles in ontogenetic development and cranio-caudal differentiation in animals, but their effect on phenotypic expression of neurotransmitters are unknown. We studied the pharmacological and morphological effects of retinoic acid (RA) on two types of immature vertebrate neurons, the human derived neuroblastoma cells, NB69, and fetal rat mid brain neurons in culture. The pharmacological effects of RA on the cultures and their relation to catecholamine and acetylcholine neurotransmission were evaluated according the levels of catecholamines, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity, TH immunostaining, and choline acetyltransferase (CAT) activity, respectively. RA reduces catecholamine levels and TH activity in NB69 cells and the number of dopamine neurons in cultures derived from rat fetal mid brain. The detrimental effect of RA on mid brain neurons is dose- dependent; limited to TH+ cells at low concentrations (100 to 500 nM) and toxic for all types of cells at high concentrations (1 to 2 μM). RA increases CAT activity in NB 69 cells and produces phenotypic differentiation of these to a more mature neuronal phenotype with more prolonged neurite extensions. Therefore, RA may play a trophic positive role in the differentiation of immature cells to cholinergic neurons; this contrasts with the detrimental effects of RA on catecholamine neurons.