Control of embryonic motoneuron survival in vivo by ciliary neurotrophic factor

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Science  29 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 5001, pp. 1616-1618
DOI: 10.1126/science.2011743


During development of the nervous system, neurons in many regions are overproduced by proliferation, after which the excess cells are eliminated by cell death. The survival of only a proportion of neurons during normal development is thought to be regulated by the limited availability of neurotrophic agents. One such putative trophic agent is ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), a polypeptide that promotes the survival of ciliary, sensory, and sympathetic neurons in vitro. In contrast to the results of in vitro studies, however, the daily treatment of chick embryos in vivo with purified human recombinant CNTF failed to rescue any of these cell populations from cell death, whereas CNTF did promote the in vivo survival of spinal motoneurons. Thus, CNTF may not act as a neurotrophic agent in vivo for those embryonic neurons (especially ciliary neurons) on which it acts in vitro. Rather, CNTF may be required for in vivo survival of motoneurons.