• Ca2+-permeable channels;
  • chick embryo;
  • growth factors;
  • inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate;
  • neuron survival


Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF/FGF2) exhibits widespread biological activities in the nervous system. However, little is known about the cascade of intracellular events that links the activation of its tyrosine kinase receptors to these effects. Here we report that, in ciliary ganglion neurons from chick embryo, this trophic factor significantly enhanced neuronal survival. The percentage of surviving neurons was reduced when intracellular calcium was chelated by adding a membrane-permeable BAPTA ester to the culture medium, while antagonists of L- and N-type voltage-dependent calcium channels were ineffective. The ionic signals in response to bFGF stimulation have been studied using cytofluorimetric and patch-clamp techniques. In single-cell Fura-2 measurements, bFGF elicited a long lasting rise of the cytosolic calcium concentration that was dependent on [Ca2+]o. In whole-cell experiments, we observed a reversible depolarization of the membrane resting potential and an inward cationic current. Single channel experiments, performed in the cell-attached configuration, provide evidence for the activation of two families of Ca2+-permeable cationic channels. Moreover, inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate opens channels with similar properties, suggesting that this cytosolic messenger can be responsible for the calcium influx induced by bFGF.