Since its discovery as a protein that gets specifically released in response to brain injury, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) has prompted much interest as a potential therapeutic agent. However, numerous experiments have met with limited success, until now; a research team shows that co-administrating CNTF with its receptor promotes the growth and survival of neurons.
While the receptor for CNTF is normally tied to the surface of neurons, this tether is frequently chopped off during trauma, which led Mark Ozog, Christian Naus and colleagues to suspect that CNTF and the free-floating receptor might act in a complex.
They treated mouse neurons with CNTF, its receptor (CNTFR), or both and then exposed the cells to massive amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate, enough to kill the neurons by over-stimulating them. CNTF or CNTFR alone did not protect the neurons, but the two complexed together could. In addition, the complex could foster increased growth of nerve cells.
Ozog, Naus and colleagues next ran a microarray analysis of the CNTF complex and found that it altered the expression of 47 genes associated with nerve growth and survival, suggesting it protects neurons through multiple direct and indirect mechanisms and thus making it a strong therapeutic candidate.
This research was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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