Constitutive phosphorylation of TrkC receptors in cultured cerebellar granule neurons might be responsible for the inability of NT-3 to increase neuronal survival and to activate p21 ras
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- Zirrgiebel, U. & Lindholm, D. Neurochem Res (1996) 21: 851. doi:10.1007/BF02532309
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The neurotrophins brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) are both expressed in developing cerebellum in addition to their tyrosine kinase receptors, TrkB and TrkC. In contrast to BDNF, NT-3 has only a negligible or a transient survival activity on cultured cerebellar granule neurons. The granule neurons however, express both TrkC and Trk B receptors which suggests a basic difference in signaling between BDNF and NT-3 in these neurons. Here we have studied whether this difference can be attributed to the presence of alternative TrkC receptor variants on the granule neurons and which signaling pathway is specifically activated by BDNF but not by NT-3 in these neurons. Using RT-PCR it was shown that the cerebellar granule neurons express the full length TrkC receptor, in addition to variant receptors containing small inserts in the receptor tyrosine kinase domain. There was no dramatic change in the relative amounts of different TrkC receptors during development. However, we found the TrkC receptor constitutively phosphorylated even in the absence of added ligand suggesting an interaction of TrkC with endogenously produced NT-3. In addition, NT-3 was able to phosphorylate the BDNF receptor, TrkB but only at higher concentration (50 ng/ml). There were also distinct differences in the activation of intracellular molecules by BDNF and NT-3. Thus, p21 Ras and PLCγ were activated by BDNF but not by NT-3 whereas both BDNF and NT-3 increased calcium and c-fos mRNA in the granule neurons. These results show that differential activation of specific intracellular pathways such as that of p21 Ras determines the specific effects of BDNF and NT-3 on granule neuron survival. In addition, since calcium is increased by NT-3 in the cerebellar granule neurons, this neurotrophin might have some unknown important effects on these neurons.