Regulation of cholinergic gene expression by nerve growth factor depends on the phosphatidylinositol-3'-kinase pathway

J Neurochem. 2005 Feb;92(4):767-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2004.02908.x.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) exerts anti-apoptotic, trophic and differentiating actions on sympathetic neurons and cholinergic cells of the basal forebrain and activates the expression of genes regulating the synthesis and storage of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). We have been studying the intracellular signaling pathways involved in this process. Although, in the rat pheochromocytoma cell line PC12, NGF strongly activates the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, prolonged inhibition of MAPK kinase (MEK) activity by PD98059 or U0126 did not affect the ability of NGF to up-regulate choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) or to increase intracellular ACh levels. In contrast, the treatment with the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002, but not with its inactive analogue LY303511, completely abolished the NGF-induced production of ACh. Inhibition of PI3K also eliminated the NGF effect on the intracellular ACh level in primary cultures of septal neurons from E18 mouse embryos. Blocking the PI3K pathway prevented the activation of cholinergic gene expression, as demonstrated in RT/PCR assays and in transient transfections of PC12 cells with cholinergic locus promoter-luciferase reporter constructs. These results indicate that the PI3K pathway, but not the MEK/MAPK pathway, is the mediator of NGF-induced cholinergic differentiation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / biosynthesis*
  • Acetylcholine / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / biosynthesis*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / drug effects
  • Cholinergic Fibers / enzymology*
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • PC12 Cells
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology*
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Rats


  • Chromones
  • Morpholines
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholine