Strict perpendicular orientation of neural crest-derived neurons in vitro is dependent on an extracellular gradient of voltage

Authors

  • Linjie Pan,

    1. Center for Paralysis Research, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
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  • Richard Ben Borgens

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Paralysis Research, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
    2. Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
    • PhD, Center for Paralysis Research, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907
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Abstract

We report extraordinary perpendicular orientations of neurons dependent on the presence of an external direct current (DC) voltage gradient. We chose chick dorsal root and postganglionic sympathetic neurons to evaluate. These were cultured in observation chambers in which the cells were separated from electrode products or substrate effects and maintained at 35°C. Both types of neurons showed a rapid restructuring of their anatomy. Typically, neurites that were not perpendicular to the voltage gradient were quickly resorbed into the cell body within a few minutes. Over 3–6 hr, significant new neurite growth occurred and was patterned perpendicular to the DC electrical field (Ef). This preferred asymmetry was dependent on the Ef, as was the initial retrograde degeneration of fibers. At 400–500 mV/mm, over 90% of the cells in culture assumed this orientation. Removal of the DC Ef led to a loss of the preferred orientation, with further random growth within the chambers. This is the first report of such responses in dorsal root ganglion neurons. We also used sympathetic neurons as a meaningful comparison to analyze whether there were any qualitative or quantitative differences between these two cell types of neural crest origin. We discuss the means by which these orientations were achieved. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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