Sympathetic neurons from perinatal rat pups extend only a single axon when maintained in culture in the absence of glia and serum. Exposure to recombinant osteogenic protein-1 (OP-1) selectively induces the formation of dendrites that correctly segregate and modify cytoskeletal and membrane proteins and form synaptic contacts of appropriate polarity. OP-1 requires nerve growth factor (NGF) as a cofactor, and, in the presence of optimal concentrations of NGF, OP1-induced dendritic growth from cultured perinatal neurons is comparable to that observed in situ. Sympathetic neuroblasts that had not formed dendrites in situ also responded to OP-1 in culture, indicating that OP-1 can cause de novo formation as well as regeneration of dendrites. These data imply that specific signals can regulate the development of neuronal shape and polarity.
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