Characterization of an NGF-P-TrkA retrograde-signaling complex and age- dependent regulation of TrkA phosphorylation in sympathetic neurons

Brian A. Tsui-Pierchala, David D. Ginty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a target-derived trophic factor for developing sympathetic and cutaneous sensory neurons. NGF promotes growth and survival of neurons via activation of the receptor tyrosine kinase TrkA. We used compartmentalized cultures of sympathetic neurons to address the mechanism of NGF signaling from distal axons and terminals to proximal axons and cell bodies. Our results demonstrate that an NGF-phospho-TrkA (NGF-P- TrkA)-signaling complex forms in distal axons and is retrogradely transported as a complex to cell bodies of sympathetic neurons. Although a minor fraction of both NGF and TrkA is retrogradely transported, a large fraction of the NGF that is retrogradely transported is found complexed with retrogradely transported TrkA. Interestingly, the metabolism of the P-TrkA complex is dramatically different in young, NGF-dependent sympathetic neurons as compared to older, NGF-independent sympathetic neurons. After withdrawal of NGF from distal axons of young neurons, P-TrkA within distal axons, as well as within proximal axons and cell bodies, dephosphorylates rapidly. In contrast, after withdrawal of NGF from distal axons of older neurons, P-TrkA within distal axons dephosphorylates completely, although more slowly than that in young neurons, whereas dephosphorylation of P-TrkA within proximal axons and cell bodies occurs markedly more slowly, with at least one-half of the level of P-TrkA remaining 2 d after NGF withdrawal. Thus, P-TrkA within the cell bodies of young, NGF-dependent sympathetic neurons is derived from distal axons. A more stable P-TrkA complex within cell bodies of mature sympathetic neurons may contribute to the acquisition of NGF independence for survival of mature sympathetic neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8207-8218
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999


  • NGF
  • Retrograde-signaling complex
  • Signal transduction
  • Sympathetic neurons
  • TrkA
  • Tyrosine phosphorylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of an NGF-P-TrkA retrograde-signaling complex and age- dependent regulation of TrkA phosphorylation in sympathetic neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this