Nerve growth factor (NGF) is important for regulation, differentiation, and survival of peripheral and central nervous system neurons, including basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) which degenerate in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Mature NGF protein is processed from a larger precursor, proNGF. We demonstrate that proNGF is the predominant form of NGF in mouse, rat, and human brain tissue, whereas little or no mature NGF is detected. Previous reports showed NGF protein, measured by ELISA, is increased in AD BFCN target regions such as hippocampus and cortex. Using Western blotting, we demonstrate a twofold increase in proNGF in AD parietal cortex compared to controls, indicating that it is this precursor form, proNGF, that accumulates in AD. This increase may reflect either a role for biologically active proNGF or posttranslational disturbances in NGF biosynthesis that decrease the processing of proNGF to mature NGF in AD.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.