Ephs and ephrins are membrane-bound proteins that interact to modulate axon growth and neuronal function. We tested the hypothesis that eph/ephrin interactions affected the growth and function of vascular sympathetic innervation. Using RT-PCR analyses, we detected both classes of ephs (A and B) and both classes of ephrins (A and B) in sympathetic ganglia from neonatal and adult rats. Both classes of ephs (A and B) and both classes of ephrins (A and B) bound to the cell bodies and neurites of dissociated postganglionic sympathetic neurons. Messenger RNAs encoding for both classes of ephs (A and B) and both classes of ephrins (A and B) were also detected in sympathetically innervated arteries from neonatal and adult rats. These data suggest that ephrins/ephs on nerve fibers of postganglionic sympathetic neurons could interact with ephs/ephrins on cells in innervated arteries. We found that ephA4 reduced reinnervation of denervated femoral arteries. Reinnervation in the presence of ephA4-Fc (38.9±6.6%) was significantly less than that in the presence of IgG-Fc (62±10%; n=5; p<0.05; one-tailed unpaired t-test). These data indicate that eph/ephrin interactions modulated the growth of vascular sympathetic innervation. We also found that ephA4 increased basal release of norepinephrine from nerve terminals of isolated tail arteries. These data indicate that eph/ephrin interactions affect the growth and function of vascular sympathetic innervation.
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