Retinoic acid (RA) induces the neuronal differentiation of many human neuroblastoma cell lines. In this study, we show that RA treatment of neuroblastoma cells induces the expression of TrkB, the receptor for the neurotrophins BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4/5. BDNF addition to RA-treated SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells stimulated the tyrosine phosphorylation of TrkB and neuronal differentiation. RA treatment of KCNR neuroblastoma cells, which constitutively express BDNF mRNA, resulted in the expression of TrkB and differentiation in the absence of added BDNF. Finally, in 15N neuroblastoma cells, which express BDNF mRNA but do not differentiate in response to RA, RA induced only a truncated form of TrkB. 15N cells transfected with full-length TrkB differentiated in the absence of RA. These results indicate that RA induces the neuronal differentiation of neuroblastoma cells by modulating the expression of neurotrophin receptors.
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