NGF gene expression and secretion in white adipose tissue: regulation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes by hormones and inflammatory cytokines

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Aug;287(2):E331-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00076.2004. Epub 2004 Apr 20.


The sympathetic nervous system plays a central role in lipolysis and the production of leptin in white adipose tissue (WAT). In this study, we have examined whether nerve growth factor (NGF), a target-derived neurotropin that is a key signal in the development and survival of sympathetic neurons, is expressed and secreted by white adipocytes. NGF mRNA was detected by RT-PCR in the major WAT depots of mice (epididymal, perirenal, omental, mesenteric, subcutaneous) and in human fat (subcutaneous, omental). In mouse WAT, NGF expression was observed in mature adipocytes and in stromal vascular cells. NGF expression was also evident in 3T3-L1 cells before and after differentiation into adipocytes. NGF protein, measured by ELISA, was secreted from 3T3-L1 cells, release being higher before differentiation. Addition of the sympathetic agonists norepinephrine, isoprenaline, or BRL-37344 (beta(3)-agonist) led to falls in NGF gene expression and secretion by 3T3-L1 adipocytes, as did IL-6 and the PPARgamma agonist rosiglitazone. A substantial decrease in NGF expression and secretion occurred with dexamethasone. In contrast, LPS increased NGF mRNA levels and NGF secretion. A major increase in NGF mRNA level (9-fold) and NGF secretion (<or=40-fold) in 3T3-L1 adipocytes occurred with TNF-alpha. RT-PCR showed that the genes encoding the p75 and trkA NGF receptors were expressed in mouse WAT. These results demonstrate that white adipocytes secrete NGF (an adipokine), NGF synthesis being influenced by several factors with TNF-alpha having a major stimulatory effect. We suggest that NGF is a target-derived neurotropin and an inflammatory response protein in white adipocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Nerve Growth Factor / drug effects
  • Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Thiazolidinediones / pharmacology
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / administration & dosage
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA