Treatment of chick embryos in ovo with crude and partially purified extracts from embryonic hindlimbs (days 8 to 9) during the normal cell death period (days 5 to 10) rescues a significant number of motoneurons from degeneration. The survival activity of partially purified extract was dose-dependent and developmentally regulated. The survival of sensory, sympathetic, parasympathetic, and a population of cholinergic sympathetic preganglionic neurons was unaffected by treatment with hindlimb extract. The massive motoneuron death that occurs after early target (hindlimb) removal was partially ameliorated by daily treatment with the hindlimb extract. These results indicate that a target-derived neurotrophic factor is involved in the regulation of motoneuron survival in vivo.
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