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Nerve growth factor

Nerve growth factor, beta polypeptide
PDB rendering based on 1bet.
Available structures: 1bet, 1btg, 1sg1, 1www, 2ifg
Symbol(s) NGFB; Beta-NGF; HSAN5; MGC161426; MGC161428; NGF
External IDs OMIM: 162030 MGI: 97321 Homologene: 1876
RNA expression pattern

More reference expression data

Human Mouse
Entrez 4803 18049
Ensembl ENSG00000134259 ENSMUSG00000027859
Uniprot P01138 Q6LDU8
Refseq NM_002506 (mRNA)
NP_002497 (protein)
NM_013609 (mRNA)
NP_038637 (protein)
Location Chr 1: 115.63 - 115.68 Mb Chr 3: 102.6 - 102.65 Mb
Pubmed search [1] [2]

Nerve growth factor (NGF), is a small secreted protein which induces the differentiation and survival of particular target neurons (nerve cells). It is perhaps the prototypical growth factor, in that it is one of the first to be described - that work by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen was rewarded with a Nobel Prize.



NGF is critical for the survival and maintenance of sympathetic and sensory neurons.

NGF is released from the target cells, binds to and activates its high affinity receptor (TrkA), and is internalized into the responsive neuron. There is some data that shows that NGF can be transported from the axon tip to soma, but it is unclear if this is necessary for effective cell signalling; in fact there is data showing that it is not. What is clear is that NGF binding and activation of TrkA is required for NGF-mediated neuronal survival and differentiation.

Receptor binding mechanism

NGF binds at least two receptors on the surface of cells which are capable of responding to this growth factor, TrkA (pronounced "Track A") and the LNGFR (for "low affinity nerve growth factor receptor").

TrkA, B, and C receptors

TrkA is a receptor tyrosine kinase (meaning it mediates its actions by causing the addition of phosphate molecules on certain tyrosines in the cell, activating cellular signaling).

There are other related Trk receptors (TrkB and TrkC), and there are other neurotrophic factors structurally related to NGF (BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4)

  • TrkA mediates the effects of NGF
  • TrkB binds and is activated by BDNF, NT-4, and NT-3
  • TrkC binds and is activated only by NT-3

LNGFR receptor

The other NGF receptor, the LNGFR, (for Low affinity nerve growth factor receptor, commonly known as "p75", plays a less clear role.

LNGFR binds and serves as a "sink" for neurotrophins. Cells which express both the LNGFR and the Trk receptors might therefore have a greater activity - since they have a higher "microconcentration" of the neurotrophin.

However, although NGF has been classically described as promoting neuron survival and differentiation, research performed in the early 2000's suggest that NGF with its prodomain attached (proNGF) can elicit apoptosis of cells that are positive for the LNGFR and negative for TrkA.[1]

Secreted proNGF has been demonstrated in a variety of neuronal and non-neuronal cell populations. It has been proposed that secreted proNGF can elicit neuron death in a variety of neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, following the observation of an increase of proNGF in the nucleus basalis of postmortem Alzheimer's brains.


Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of NGF and other growth factors.[2][3][4]

Cultural significance

NGF has been tied to human romantic love.[5][6][7]

It has also been tied to Alzheimer's disease.[8][9][10]

See also


  1. ^ Ibáñez C (2002). "Jekyll-Hyde neurotrophins: the story of proNGF". Trends Neurosci 25 (6): 284-6. PMID 12086739.
  2. ^ The 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of growth factors
  3. ^ Presentation Speech by Professor Kerstin Hall The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1986
  4. ^ Rita Levi-Montalcini – Nobel Lecture
  5. ^ Emanuele E, Politi P, Bianchi M, Minoretti P, Bertona M, Geroldi D (2006). "Raised plasma nerve growth factor levels associated with early-stage romantic love". Psychoneuroendocrinology 31 (3): 288-94. PMID 16289361. link
  6. ^ "NGF" gives passionate lovers just one year, Reuters, November 29, 2005.
  7. ^ John Harris Is love just a chemical?, Guardian, November 29, 2005.
  8. ^ Counts S, Mufson E (2005). "The role of nerve growth factor receptors in cholinergic basal forebrain degeneration in prodromal Alzheimer disease". J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 64 (4): 263-72. PMID 15835262.
  9. ^ Hempstead B (2006). "Dissecting the diverse actions of pro- and mature neurotrophins". Curr Alzheimer Res 3 (1): 19-24. PMID 16472198.
  10. ^ Allen S, Dawbarn D (2006). "Clinical relevance of the neurotrophins and their receptors". Clin Sci (Lond) 110 (2): 175-91. PMID 16411894.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nerve_growth_factor". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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