The Mechanism of Action of Nerve Growth Factor

  • Gordon Guroff
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 38A)


Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a trophic peptide, discovered by Levi-Montalcini and Hamburger some 40 years ago 1,2 The complete structure of NGF is known3, as is the general nature of its receptor(s)4, and the character of the gene encoding it5. It is also clear that NGF has a large number of effects on its various target cells, some of which depend on the cell type itself, and some of which depend on the conditions under which it is applied. Generally speaking, there are two types of actions observed after NGF interacts with its cell membrane receptor. Some of its actions occur at the membrane, are relatively rapid, and do not require the synthesis of RNA. Typical of these are alterations in cell membrane structure6, stimulation of the transport of small molecules7, and increases in the levels of cyclic nucleotides8. A second type of action occurs at the nucleus and involves changes in the transcription of specific genes. Typical of these are increases in the synthesis of neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzymes9, and the generation of neurites10 The best evidencell indicates that although NGF influences the transcription of specific genes, NGF itself does not act directly on the nucleus; it is generally believed that the signal initiated by the combination of NGF with its receptor at the membrane is carried to the nucleus by a series of second messengers, the nature of which are as yet not completely clear.


PC12 Cell Nerve Growth Factor Neurite Outgrowth Superior Cervical Ganglion Nerve Growth Factor Receptor 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon Guroff
    • 1
  1. 1.Section on Growth FactorsNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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