Competition for Neurotrophic Factor in
the Development of Nerve Connections
A. van Ooyen & D. J. Willshaw
Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. (1999) 266: 883-892.
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The development of nerve connections is thought to involve competition
among axons for survival promoting factors, or neurotrophins, which are
released by the cells that are innervated by the axons. Although the
notion of competition is widely used within neurobiology, there is
little understanding of the nature of the competitive process and
the underlying mechanisms.
We present a new theoretical model to analyse competition in the
development of nerve connections. According to the model, the precise
manner in which neurotrophins regulate the growth of axons, in
particular the growth of the amount of neurotrophin receptor, determines
what patterns of target innervation can develop. The regulation of
neurotrophin receptors is also involved in the degeneration and
regeneration of connections. Competition in our model can be influenced
by factors dependent on and independent of neuronal
electrical activity. Our results point to the need to measure directly
the specific form of the regulation by neurotrophins of their receptors.
Arjen van Ooyen, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research,
Meibergdreef 33, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
email: A.van.Ooyen at nih.knaw.nl
phone: +31.20.5665483 fax: +31.20.6961006