Nerve growth factor signaling, neuroprotection, and neural repair

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001;24:1217-81. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.1217.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) was discovered 50 years ago as a molecule that promoted the survival and differentiation of sensory and sympathetic neurons. Its roles in neural development have been characterized extensively, but recent findings point to an unexpected diversity of NGF actions and indicate that developmental effects are only one aspect of the biology of NGF. This article considers expanded roles for NGF that are associated with the dynamically regulated production of NGF and its receptors that begins in development, extends throughout adult life and aging, and involves a surprising variety of neurons, glia, and nonneural cells. Particular attention is given to a growing body of evidence that suggests that among other roles, endogenous NGF signaling subserves neuroprotective and repair functions. The analysis points to many interesting unanswered questions and to the potential for continuing research on NGF to substantially enhance our understanding of the mechanisms and treatment of neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Nerve Growth Factor