Rapid regulation of neuronal growth cone shape and surface morphology by nerve growth factor

Neurochem Res. 1987 Oct;12(10):861-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00966307.


Scanning electron microscopy was used to study regulation of growth cone shape and surface morphology by nerve growth factor (NGF). The growth cones of cultured rat sympathetic neurons and neuronally-differentiated PC12 cells were observed under conditions of continuous NGF exposure, NGF withdrawal, and NGF readdition. Growth cones of cells cultured in the continuous presence of NGF were mostly spread in shape and about 60% possessed surface ruffles. Ruffles appeared to be largely restricted to growth cones in that few were observed on cell bodies and neurites. Withdrawal of NGF for 4-5 hr caused most of the growth cones to take on a non-spread or contracted appearance and to lose their ruffles. Readdition of NGF promoted rapid changes in growth cone properties. Within 30 sec, ruffling was again evident on the growth cones and remained prominent there throughout the course of treatment (up to 5 hr). This was in contrast to cell bodies on which, as previously reported, ruffling also occurred following NGF readdition, but only transiently (for less than 15 min). Respreading of growth cones also occurred under these conditions. This was evident within 1 min of NGF readdition and reached the levels observed in continuously-treated cultures within 1-2 hr. Neurites were also examined. Ruffles were only rarely present in the continuous presence of NGF and were absent after NGF withdrawal. NGF readdition elicited ruffling along neurites within 30 sec; the prevalence of such ruffles diminished to that seen in continuously-treated cultures within about an hour.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nerve Growth Factors / pharmacology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / growth & development*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rats


  • Nerve Growth Factors