Dynamics of behaviour during neuronal morphogenesis in culture
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We report a developmental sequence in the type and frequency of behaviours of neurons differentiating in vitro. We characterised these changes with extensive analysis of time-lapse sequences from both the continuing cell line pheochromocytoma PC12 and primary mixed cell culture of cat and mouse central nervous system. PC12 cells activated by nerve growth factor (NGF) differentiate in a uniform and synchronous manner. This allowed the first quantification of changes in different neuron behaviours during morphogenesis. Shortly after NGF activation, PC12 cells are highly labile in morphology and exhibit a large variety of morphological behaviours. During the first week of differentiation, the frequency of these behaviours declines, and gross morphology becomes more stable. The frequency of neurite initiation after 1 week in NGF is one-seventh what it was after 2 days in NGF. Over the same period, neurite retraction declines to one-third, and somal migration ceases altogether. Growth-cone activity does not decline during development. These behaviour changes correlate with published data on the differentiation of the neurite cytoskeleton. A qualitatively similar ontogeny was noted in the differentiation of CNS neurons in mixed cell culture. Major differences occur in the relative timing of changes in behaviours. Mature, stable morphology is not detected in these cultures until 7 weeks in vitro.
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