There is increasing evidence that the proteoglycan heparin plays a critical role in the regulation of the activity of FGF-2 by either interacting with its receptor or modifying its stability and functioning. In this study precursor cells were isolated from the rat E14 ventral mesencephalon and cultured as free floating spheres in FGF-2 alone or in combination with heparin or other related proteoglycans, including chondroitin sulfate, keratin sulfate, dermatan sulfate, or hyaluronic acid. Our results show the mitogenic effects of FGF-2 could be potentiated by heparin but not the other four proteoglycans. Sodium chlorate, which blocks the cells ability to sulfate its proteoglycans, was shown to reduce the mitogenic effects of FGF-2 alone to below that of control levels, suggesting that endogenous sulfated molecules are required for the FGF-2 effects on mesencephalic precursors. Cells expanded for 7 days with either FGF-2 or FGF-2 + heparin were plated onto a substrate and allowed to differentiate for a further 7 days in the absence of growth factors. Approximately 6% of the precursors developed into neurons whether grown with or without heparin and none were positive for TH, a marker for dopamine neurons. However, there was a significant decrease in the number of astrocytes developing from cultures grown in FGF-2 + heparin when compared to FGF-2 alone. Interestingly we could not find an EGF responsive cell in the mesencephalon at this embryonic age in the absence or presence of heparin. However, there was a synergistic effect of combining EGF + FGF-2, which could be potentiated by heparin. We conclude that heparin, but not other closely related proteoglycans, is vital for the growth of FGF-2-responsive mesencephalic neural precursors.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.