L'ultimo articolo scientifico di Rita Levi Montalcini (pubblicato il 25 Gennaio 2012 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) ha aggiunto nuove informazioni sulla proteina coinvolta nella vita delle cellule nervose.
L'articolo - scritto insieme a Annalisa Manca, Simona Capsoni, Anna Di Luzio, Domenico Vignone, Francesca Malerba, Francesca Paoletti, Rossella Brandi, Ivan Arisi, Antonino Cattaneo - si intitola: Nerve growth factor regulates axial rotation during early stages of chick embryo development.
Nerve growth factor (NGF) was discovered because of its neurotrophic actions on sympathetic and sensory neurons in the developing chicken embryo. NGF was subsequently found to influence and regulate the function of many neuronal and non neuronal cells in adult organisms. Little is known, however, about the possible actions of NGF during early embryonic stages. However, mRNAs encoding for NGF and its receptors TrkA and p75NTR are expressed at very early stages of avian embryo development, before the nervous system is formed. The question, therefore, arises as to what might be the functions of NGF in early chicken embryo development, before its well-established actions on the developing sympathetic and sensory neurons. To investigate possible roles of NGF in the earliest stages of development, stage HH 11–12 chicken embryos were injected with an anti-NGF antibody (mAb αD11) that binds mature NGF with high affinity. Treatment with anti-NGF, but not with a control antibody, led to a dose-dependent inversion of the direction of axial rotation. This effect of altered rotation after anti NGF injection was associated with an increased cell death in somites.
Concurrently, a microarray mRNA expression analysis revealed that NGF neutralization affects the expression of genes linked to the regulation
of development or cell proliferation. These results reveal a role for
NGF in early chicken embryo development and, in particular, in the
regulation of somite survival and axial rotation, a crucial
developmental process linked to left–right asymmetry specification.