Ras p21 protein promotes survival and differentiation of human embryonic neural crest-derived cells

G. D. Borasio, A. Markus, R. Heumann, C. Ghezzi, A. Sampietro, A. Wittinghofer, V. Silani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have previously shown that the oncogene product p21Ras is essential for the survival and neurite outgrowth-promoting activity of nerve growth factor on cultured chick embryonic sensory, but not sympathetic neurons. In order to extend our observations to the human system and to non-neuronal cells, we introduced the oncogenic form of p21Ras into the cytoplasm of three different types of cultured human embryonic neural crest derivatives (8th-11th gestational week): dorsal root ganglion neurons, sympathetic neurons, and adrenal chromaffin cells. These cells are dependent on nerve growth factor for survival and/or fibre outgrowth in vitro. In dorsal root ganglion neurons, p21Ras promoted survival and fibre outgrowth which was quantitatively and qualitatively comparable to the nerve growth factor effect (84% vs. 95%, control 18%). Sympathetic neurons showed a similar effect, albeit with a higher background survival (91% vs. 93%, control 58%). On chromaffin cells, which respond to nerve growth factor with pronounced fibre outgrowth in culture, the effect of p21Ras was again comparable to that of nerve growth factor (35% vs. 30%, control 5%). The survival and fibre outgrowth-promoting effects of p21Ras on human embryonic dorsal root ganglion neurons, sympathetic neurons and chromaffin cells suggest an involvement of p21Ras in the intracellular signal transduction of nerve growth factor in human neural crest-derived cell populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1127
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1996


  • chromaffin cells
  • dorsal root ganglion neurons
  • nerve growth factor
  • p75 low affinity NGF receptor
  • signal transduction
  • sympathetic neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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