Neuronal maturation in mammalian cell culture is dependent on spontaneous electrical activity

G. K. Bergey, S. C. Fitzgerald, B. K. Schrier, P. G. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Fetal mouse spinal cord (SC) and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons undergo a process of maturation in cell culture lasting a month or more. We have investigated the role of electrical activity in this maturational process with the use of tetrodotoxin (TTX), the specific blocker of the voltage-sensitive sodium channel responsible for action potential generation. This agent completely eliminates the spikes and related synaptic activity which occur abundantly in untreated cultures. Such blockade of electrical activity in the cultures, when begun early (day 1 or day 8 in vitro), results in a 85-95% reduction in the number of large SC neurons, without affecting DRG neuron numbers. TTX treatment initiated when cultures are mature (day 70) has no significant effect on either DRG or SC neurons. Intermediate effects are obtained when treatment is initiated at day 35 in vitro. The activity of the nerve-specific enzyme, choline acetyltransferase, is significantly decreased by early TTX treatment, while DNA and protein content of the cultures (primarily contributed by glial and fibroblastic cells) is not affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 23 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • cell culture
  • electrical activity
  • maturation
  • spinal cord neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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