Primary sensory neurons which innervate neuromuscular spindles in the chicken are calbindin-immunoreactive. The influence exerted by developing skeletal muscle on the expression of calbindin immunoreactivity by subpopulations of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells in the chick embryo was tested in vitro in coculture with myoblasts, in conditioned medium (CM) prepared from myoblasts and in control cultures of DRG cells alone. Control cultures of DRG cells grown at the 6th embryonic day (E6) did not show any calbindin-immunostained ganglion cell. In coculture of myoblasts previously grown for 14 days, about 3% of calbindin-immunoreactive ganglion cells were detected while about 1% were observed in some cultures grown in CM. Fibroblasts from various sources were devoid of effect. Skin or kidney cells were more active than myoblasts to initiate calbindin expression by subpopulations of DRG cells in coculture or, to a lesser degree, in CM. The results suggest that cellular factors would rather induce calbindin expression in certain sensory neurons than ensure a selective neuronal survival.

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