[Frontiers in Bioscience 2, d88-125, March 1, 1997]
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CROSS-TALK SIGNALS IN THE CNS: ROLE OF NEUROTROPHIC AND HORMONAL FACTORS, ADHESION MOLECULES AND INTERCELLULAR SIGNALING AGENTS IN LUTEINIZING HORMONE-RELEASING HORMONE (LHRH)-ASTROGLIAL INTERACTIVE NETWORK

Bianca Marchetti

Department of Pharmacology, Medical School, University of Catania, 95125 Catania, Laboratory of Biotech. Neuropharmacology, OASI Institute for Research and Care (IRCCS) on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging (IRCCS) Troina, (EN), Italy.

Received 8/2/96; Accepted 2/20/97; On-line 3/1/97

1. ABSTRACT

Neuron-astrocyte interactions play a crucial role during development and in the adult brain. During development, glial cells are involved in the guidance of neuronal precursors and in extending neuronal fiber projections. Astrocytes can promote neurite outgrowth, both "in vitro" and "in vivo". In the central nervous system (CNS), they express receptors for a variety of growth factors (GFs), neurotransmitters and/or neuromodulators. In turn, neuronal cells can respond to astrocyte-derived growth factors and control astrocyte function via a common set of signaling molecules and intracellular transducing pathways. It is also well established that astrocytes are involved with regenerative failure within the CNS following injury. Increasing evidence support the viewpoint that soluble factors from lymphoid/mononuclear cells modulate the growth and function of cells found in the CNS, specifically macroglia and microglia cells. Furthermore, glial cells can secrete immunoregulatory molecules that influence immune cells, as well as the glial cells themselves. In recent years, a bi-directional flow of informational molecules between LHRH neurons, subserving the neuroendocrine control of reproductive function, and astroglia cells has been disclosed. During their maturation and differentiation in vitro, astroglial cells release peptide growth factors that markedly accelerate LHRH neuronal phenotypic differentiation . In addition, these peptides induce the acquisition of mature LHRH secretory potential, with a potency depending on both the "age" and the specific brain localization of the astroglia, as well as the degree of LHRH neuronal differentiation "in vitro". Different experimental paradigms such as co-culture and mixed culture models between the GT1-1 neurons and astroglial cells in primary culture, disclosed the presence of a bi-directional flow of informational molecules regulating both proliferative and secretory capacities of each cell type. Growth factors are key players in LHRH neuron-astroglia crosstalk. In particular, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) was identified as a major differentiation factor for the immortalized hypothalamic LHRH neuronal cell line. A specific synergy/cooperation between bFGF and other growth factors was also revealed at specific stages of LHRH neuron differentiation, indicating that the sequential expression of specific growth factors may participate in the processes of LHRH neuron migration, differentiation and functional regulation. Since bFGF is expressed in GT1-1 neurons and glial cells a possible paracrine/autocrine regulatory loop is suggested. Indeed, neutralization experiments aimed at counteracting endogenous bFGF during neuron-glia interactions dramatically inhibited astroglia neurotrophic effects. On the other hand, the importance of adhesion molecules in cell-to-cell communication was underscored by the significant inhibition of GT1-1 LHRH production and cell proliferation following the counteraction of neuron-neuron/neuron-glia interactions through addition of neuronal cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) antiserum. Other information came from pharmacological experiments manipulating the astroglial-derived cytokines and/or nitric oxide, which revealed a crosstalk between the neuronal and astroglial compartments. From the bulk of this information, it seems likely that interactions between astroglia and LHRH neurons play a major role in the integration of the multiplicity of brain signals converging on the LHRH neurons that govern reproduction.