Nerve growth factor induced changes in the Golgi apparatus of PC-12 rat pheochromocytoma cells as studied by ligand endocytosis, cytochemical and morphometric methods

William F. Hickey, Anna Stieber, Ruth Hogue-Angeletti, Jacqueline Gonatas, Nicholas K. Gonatas

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Cells of the PC-12 rat pheochromocytoma cell line respond to nerve growth factor (NGF) by sprouting neurites and biochemically differentiating into sympathetic ganglion-like cells. NGF-stimulated ('differentiated') and unstimulated ('undifferentiated') cells were studied by cytochemical techniques for the localization of the enzymes acid phosphatase (ACPase) and thiamine pyrophosphatase (TPPase), and by a morphometric analysis of the distribution of endocytosed wheat-germ agglutinin labelled with horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP). Both cytochemical stains showed the enzymes to be distributed in lysosomes and certain cisternae of the Golgi apparatus in both NGF stimulated and unstimulated cells. ACPase was not confined to GERL (Golgi-endoplasmic reticulum-lysosome) as in certain other cells. The morphometric studies demonstrated that the reaction product of the internalized WGA-HRP occupied 4.7% of the cytoplasmic area in unstimulated cells and 4.5% in NGF-stimulated ones. Despite this similarity, the distribution of the WGA-HRP among the studied intracellular compartments in these two cell groups varied. In the NGF-stimulated cells 3.3% of the WGA-HRP reaction product was found in the innermost Golgi cisterna(e) while in unstimulated cells only 0.3% was seen in this compartment. Similarly, 4.3% of the WGA-HRP stain was found in small vesicles at the 'trans' aspect of the Golgi apparatus in stimulated cells, when only 0.3% of the stain occupied this compartment in 'undifferentiated' cells. The morphometric analysis also revealed that when the PC-12 cells were stimulated with NGF, the Golgi apparatus increased in area by approximately 70%. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that NGF induced differentiation of PC-12 cells is coupled with enhanced endocytosis of WGA and probably of its 'receptor' to the innermost Golgi cisterna(e) and the closely associated vesicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-766
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1983


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology

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