Semaphorin 3A and neurotrophins: A balance between apoptosis and survival signaling in embryonic DRG neurons

Ayal Ben-Zvi, Zohar Yagil, Yamit Hagalili, Hagit Klein, Omer Lerman, Oded Behar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Large numbers of neurons are eliminated by apoptosis during nervous system development. For instance, in the mouse dorsal root ganglion (DRG), the highest incidence of cell death occurs between embryonic days 12 and 14 (E12-E14). While the cause of cell death and its biological significance in the nervous system is not entirely understood, it is generally believed that limiting quantities of neurotrophins are responsible for neuronal death. Between E12 and E14, developing DRG neurons pass through tissues expressing high levels of axonal guidance molecules such as Semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) while navigating to their targets. Here, we demonstrate that Sema3A acts as a death-inducing molecule in neurotrophin-3 (NT-3)-, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)- and nerve growth factor (NGF)-dependent E12 and E13 cultured DRG neurons. We show that Sema3A most probably induces cell death through activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun signaling pathway, and that this cell death is blocked by a moderate increase in NGF concentration. Interestingly, increasing concentrations of other neurotrophic factors, such as NT-3 or BDNF, do not elicit similar effects. Our data suggest that the number of DRG neurons is determined by a fine balance between neurotrophins and Semaphorin 3A, and not only by neurotrophin levels.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)585-597
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Neuronal cell death
  • Neurotrophins
  • Semaphorin 3A


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