Nerve growth factor (NGF) has been isolated from human placental tissue. Using the chicken embryo dorsal root ganglia assay, we determined levels of NGF activity for the amnion, placental cotyledons, cord serum, fetal serum, and maternal serum. The highest levels of NGF activity were measured in placental cotyledons. After homogenization and centrifugation of the placental cotyledons, the supernatant was sequentially chromatographed, at neutral pH, on Sephadex G-100, DEAE-11, and Sephadex G-150. A high-molecular-weight protein fraction (≈150,000), which contained all the biological activity, was isolated in this fashion. Analytical isoelectric focusing of this fraction revealed a basic protein component (pI 9.5) of the high-molecular-weight species. Assays for NGF activity of all protein components separated by analytical isoelectric focusing showed that NGF activity was associated only with the basic protein component. Correspondingly, preparative isoelectric focusing of the high-molecular-weight species yielded a basic protein with very high biological activity (1-3 ng per biological unit) that was immunochemically active against rabbit IgG made against mouse β-NGF.
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