This chapter discusses the adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) neuropeptide stimulation of serotonergic neuronal maturation in tissue culture. ACTH is an integral component of the pituitary–adrenal axis associated with stress. Use of the ACTH family of neuropeptides has established effects on the behavior of animals. ACTH neuropeptides have significant neurotrophic effects on regenerating peripheral motor neurons. The effects of ACTH and its fragments on the maturation of dissociated fetal serotonergic neurons cultured alone or in co-cultures with target cells from the hippocampus are investigated. An approach employed for studying the neurotrophic effects of ACTH and its fragments on development is to use a microculture system for growing afferent neurons alone or in the presence of their target cells. A neuronal culture system of dissociated fetal mesencephalic cells is developed for investigating the regulatory factors involved in serotonergic maturation. The chapter postulates that the ACTH family of neuropeptides act by the same neurotrophic mechanisms as the naturally occurring serotonergic growth factor present in the hippocampus.
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