When deprived of neurotrophic factors, neuronal cells undergo a form of programmed cell death that involves a cascade of gene expression. To better understand this cascade, we screened the genes induced during programmed cell death evoked in neuronal PC6-3 cells by NGF-depletion and discovered a novel gene, NIPK (Neuronal cell death Inducible Putative Kinase), that contains a kinase-like domain. Expression of NIPK was also induced in cultured sympathetic neurons by NGF deprivation and in cortical neurons exposed to the Ca2+ ionophore, A23187. In contrast, NIPK was not induced during non-neuronal cell death evoked by serum or growth factor deprivation, or by treatment with methyl methanesulfonate, an agent that causes cell death by damaging DNA. Taken together, these findings suggest that NIPK is involved in programmed cell death via a pathway that is present in neurons but is absent in non-neurons.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.