Protein synthesis is required for the initiation of dendritic growth in embryonic rat sympathetic neurons in vitro

Pamela J Lein, Dennis Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We have utilized an experimental paradigm which allows the manipulation of dendritic growth in sympathetic neurons in culture to examine the effects of inhibitors of protein synthesis and RNA synthesis on the development of dendrites. Embryonic rat sympathetic neurons extend only axons when they are grown in serum-free medium on a polylysine substrate. The addition of an extract of basement membrane proteins (BME) to this culture system elicits dendritic growth within 48 h. Both cycloheximide and actinomycin-D inhibited BME-induced dendritic growth in >80% of the neuronal population and reduced the number of dendrites extended by ≥97%. In contrast, cycloheximide was found to have minimal effects on axonal growth in short-term (≤18h) cultures as measured with respect to the percentage of the population with axons and the number of axons per neuron. However, this inhibitor did significantly reduce (84%) the length of the axonal plexus extended. These results indicate that dendritic and axonal growth in sympathetic neurons are differentially dependent on protein synthesis such that the formation of dendrites requires protein synthesis whereas the initiation, but not the elongation, of axons is relatively independent of protein synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 21 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Axonal growth
  • Dendritic growth
  • Extracellular matrix protein
  • Protein synthesis
  • RNA synthesis
  • Sympathetic neuron
  • Tissue culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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