Characterization of synaptic vesicles and related neuronal features in nerve growth factor and ras oncogene differentiated PC12 cells

J. ‐H Tao‐Cheng, A. Dosemeci, J. P. Bressler, M. W. Brightman, D. L. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


PC12 cells can differentiate into neuron‐like cells after treatment with either nerve growth factor (NGF) or transduction with a retrovirus which expresses the K‐ras oncogene. The concomitant treatment of NGF plus ras differentiates PC12 cells further than either agent alone with respect to neurite outgrowth, acetylcholinesterase levels, and most strikingly, the number of synaptic vesicle (SV) clusters. These SV clusters in PC12 cell neurites closely resemble those in the presynaptic terminals of neurons. Such SV clusters have not been described in cell lines previously. The SV clusters from all three differentiated groups (NGF, ras, and NGF plus ras) were similar in size, shape, and configuration, except that the ones in the doubly treated group occur in higher frequency and have more vesicles. The synaptic nature of these vesicle clusters was demonstrated by their regulated depletion after potassium stimulation. Furthermore, these vesicle clusters stained positively for two SV‐associated proteins, synapsin I and synaptophysin, by EM immunocytochemistry (ICC). Such SV clusters in a cell line are very useful for characterizing the regulated release of SVs and the distribution of SV‐related antigens in intact cells. Analysis by SDS‐gel electrophoresis and immunoblotting indicated that synapsin I levels are higher in all three differentiated groups compared to untreated cells; whereas synaptophysin levels are lower in cells exposed to NGF alone or with NGF and ras double treatment. Possible convergence and/or divergence on the mechanisms of NGF and ras differentiation in PC12 cells are discussed. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-334
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neuroscience research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 15 1995


  • EM immunocytochemistry
  • acetylcholinesterase
  • potassium stimulated release
  • synapsin I
  • synaptophysin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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