Neurones depend on contact with their target tissues for survival and subsequent development1–4. The protein, nerve growth factor (NGF), can be selectively taken up by sympathetic nerve terminals and reaches the neuronal perikaryon by a process of retrograde intra-axonal transport5, suggesting that its role in vivo is to act as a target tissue-derived trophic factor6. The development of the neurones of the chick ciliary ganglion requires the presence of structures derived from the optic cup4. Several studies in vitro have shown that media conditioned by non-neuronal cells contain factors that result in the survival of neurones from ciliary ganglia7–11. In particular, chick embryo iris, ciliary body and choroid contained large amounts of these factors indicating the presence of a target tissue-derived trophic factor for the cholinergic ciliary ganglion12. This study demonstrates that neurones of the ciliary ganglion accumulate, by retrograde intra-axonal transport, proteins synthesized and released by optic tissues in culture.
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