Function and evolution in the NGF family and its receptors

Journal of Neuroscience Research
T Ebendal


The gene family of neurotrophins includes nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4). Recently, neurotrophin-5 (NT-5), a possible mammalian homologue to NT-4 described in the frog Xenopus, has been cloned in man and rat. The neurotrophins stimulate survival and differentiation of a range of target neurons by binding to cell surface receptors. The structure of NGF has recently been clarified from crystallographic data. The similarities between the different neurotrophins are substantial with the variable regions, giving specificity to each of the family members, being localized to some exposed loop regions. Low-affinity binding (Kd of 10(-9) M) of all tested neurotrophins is mediated via a 75 K glycoprotein (LNGFR) that has been cloned and characterized. A 140 K tyrosine protein kinase encoded by the proto-oncogene trk has been found to bind NGF with high affinity (Kd of 10(-11) M) and to evoke the cellular neurotrophic responses. In addition, a protein encoded by the trk-related gene trkB has been shown to bind BDNF. Recently, a third member of the trk family, trkC, has been cloned and demonstrated to function as a high-affinity receptor for NT-3. The ex...Continue Reading


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