Suramin induces phosphorylation of the high-affinity nerve growth factor receptor in PC12 cells and dorsal root ganglion neurons

Jagjit S. Gill, Denise C. Connolly, Michael J. McManus, Nita J. Maihle, Anthony J. Windebank

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24 Scopus citations


Suramin is a polysulfonated naphthylurea with demonstrated antineoplastic activity. Toxicity includes adrenal insufficiency and peripheral neuropathy. Although the mechanism of antitumor activity is unknown, inhibition of binding of growth factors to their receptors has been suggested. Growth factors inhibited by suramin include platelet-derived growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, transforming growth factor, epidermal growth factor, insulin-like growth factor, and nerve growth factor (NGF). In these studies, suramin was shown to be cytotoxic to PC12 cells in a dose-dependent manner. At lower doses and in surviving cells, we observed the induction of neurite outgrowth. To determine the mechanism of suramin-induced neurite outgrowth, PC12 cells were exposed to suramin and/or NGF for various time periods and treated cells were analyzed, by western blot analysis, for expression of tyrosine phosphoproteins. There was a similarity in the pattern of tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins in PC12 cells stimulated with suramin or NGF. Of particular interest was the rapid phosphorylation (by 1 min) of the high-affinity NGF (TrkA) receptor. Activation of other members of the signal- transduction cascade (Shc, p21(ras), Raf-1, ERK-1) revealed similar phosphorylation levels induced by suramin and NGF. Parallel studies were performed in rat dorsal root ganglion cultures; suramin potentiated neurite outgrowth and activated the NGF receptor on these cells. This finding of specific patterns of tyrosine phosphorylation of cellular proteins in response to suramin treatment demonstrated that suramin is a partial agonist for the NGF receptor in both PC12 cells and dorsal root ganglion neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)963-972
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 1996


  • Chemotherapy
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Nerve growth factor receptor
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Signal transduction
  • Tyrosine kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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