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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.

While "nerve growth factor" refers to a single factor,[1] "nerve growth factors" refers to a family of factors also known as neurotrophins.[2]


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 are some data that show 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 are 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

Main article: Nerve growth factor receptor

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").


Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of NGF and other growth factors.[3][4][5]

Cultural and medical significance

In 2005, Italian scientists at University of Pavia found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these levels return to as they were after one year. Specifically, four neurotrophin levels, i.e. NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4, of 58 subjects who had recently fallen in love were compared with levels in a control group who were either single or already engaged in a long-term relationship. The results showed that NGF levels were significantly higher in the subjects in love than as compared to either of the control groups.[6][7][8]

It has also been tied to Alzheimer's disease.[9][10][11]

See also


  1. MeSH Nerve+Growth+Factor
  2. MeSH Nerve+Growth+Factors
  3. The 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of growth factors
  4. Presentation Speech by Professor Kerstin Hall The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1986
  5. Rita Levi-Montalcini – Nobel Lecture
  6. 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. link
  7. "NGF" gives passionate lovers just one year, Reuters, November 29, 2005.
  8. John Harris Is love just a chemical?, Guardian, November 29, 2005.
  9. 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.
  10. Hempstead B (2006). Dissecting the diverse actions of pro- and mature neurotrophins. Curr Alzheimer Res 3 (1): 19–24.
  11. Allen S, Dawbarn D (2006). Clinical relevance of the neurotrophins and their receptors. Clin Sci (Lond) 110 (2): 175–91.

External links


Target-derived NGF, BDNF, NT-3


Template:Signaling proteins

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