The neurotrophin receptor TrkB is colocalized to mitochondrial membranes

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2006;38(4):610-20. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2005.10.024. Epub 2005 Nov 28.


The transmembrane tyrosine-specific protein kinase TrkB has been shown to serve as a receptor for the neurotrophic factors BDNF and NT-4. Neurotrophin binding to TrkB isoformes mediates many intracellular signaling pathways, including calcium signalling. Two truncated isoforms of the receptor, lacking the tyrosine kinase activity, signal through a yet unknown pathway. Specific signals modulate the surface expression of TrkB, which is localized in considerable amounts in intracellular pools. These intracellular pools has not been specified so far. We therefore investigated the intracellular distribution of TrkB by colocalisation studies. In contrast to the unspecific neurotrophin receptor NGFRp75, TrkB immunohistochemistry showed a staining pattern very similar to mitochondrial stainings in adult human skeletal muscle fibers. Immunofluorescence techniques revealed in different types of permeabilized cells that TrkB is bound to mitochondrial membranes. This observation was confirmed on isolated astrocyte mitoplasts. Colocalisation of the TrkB ligand NT-4 and the specific mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase was also observed. Western blot analysis of isolated mitochondria from rat brain and skeletal muscle verified that a truncated isoform of TrkB is present in both, brain and muscle mitochondria, and full-length TrkB is additionally present in brain mitochondria. Our results imply that neurotrophins can be stored in mitochondria and possibly act as signalling molecules on mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptor, trkB
  • neurotrophin 4