Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology


Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Paul R. Dobner


Gene Expression, Molecular Biology, Lithium, Nerve Growth Factors, Neurotensin, PC12 Cells


This thesis examines the effects of nerve growth factor (NGF) and lithium on the regulation of neurotensin/neuromedin N (NT/N) gene expression in PC12 pheochromocytoma cells. In PC12 cells, the expression of the rat NT/N gene is strictly dependent on simultaneous exposure to combinations of NGF, glucocorticoids, activators of adenylate cyclase, and lithium. Transient transfection experiments indicated that a consensus AP-1 site located within the NT/N promoter is the principal target of NGF and lithium action. NGF rapidly, but transiently, induces the expression of several AP-1 genes in PC12 cells, suggesting that the effect of NGF on NT/N gene expression results from increased AP-1 activity. These results led to the prediction that the induction of NT/N gene expression should be rapid, transient and dependent on de novoprotein synthesis. These experiments also suggested that the NT/N gene is principally regulated through the initiation of transcription. However, post-transcriptional mechanisms may also be involved. Experiments in this thesis were designed to examine the regulatory mechanisms responsible for increased NT production in PC12 cells when treated with different inducer combinations and whether AP-1 factors could act as mediators in responses to NGF and lithium.

Results described in this thesis indicate that the principal mechanism by which NGF and lithium regulate NT biosynthesis is by activating NT/N gene transcription. Comparison of NT/N mRNA, pro NT/N synthetic rates, proNT/N proteins and mature NT levels in induced PC12 cells, demonstrated that NGF and lithium had no effect on the translation of NT/N mRNA and had only a modest effect on post-translational processing. Nuclear run-on assays showed that NT/N transcription is transicntly activated in maximally induced cells. A rapid RNase protection assay was developed to examine both the kinetics of NT/N gene activation and whether activation requires newly synthesized proteins. Quantitation of nuclear NT/N precursor RNA. using a probe spanning the junction between exon onc and intron one, provides a sensitive measure of NT/N gene activity and by several criteria provides an accurate measure of NT/N transcription. When either NGF or lithium was combined with dexamethasone and forskolin, nuclear NT/N precursor RNA transiently accumulated, although each inducer displayed different kinetics, rapid and delayed, respectively. De novo protein synthesis was not required for activating NT/N transcription when NGF was used as the permissive agent, although newly synthesized proteins secm to be needed for subsequent down-regulation. The response to lithium displayed a marked requirement for new protein synthesis, consistent with the involvement of newly synthesized AP-1 factors. RNA blot analysis showed that lithium either alone or in combination with dexamethasone and forskolin induced c-jun and fra-1 gene expression with delayed kinetics, consistent with c-Jun/Fra-1 complexes mediating the effects of lithium on NT/N gene transcription. The pathway identified by lithium does not activate or require protein kinase C. This pathway is also active in neuronally-differentiated PC12 cells suggesting that it could be involved in the regulation of NT/N gcne exprcssion in the intact nervous system. These results and order of addition experiments demonstrate that NGF and lithium activate distinct pathways required for NT/N gene induction.


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