Neurotrophins: mediators and modulators of pain

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2006:29:507-38. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.29.051605.112929.


The neurotrophin family of neurotrophic factors are well-known for their effects on neuronal survival and growth. Over the past decade, considerable evidence has accumulated from both humans and animals that one neurotrophin, nerve growth factor (NGF), is a peripheral pain mediator, particularly in inflammatory pain states. NGF is upregulated in a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, and NGF-neutralizing molecules are effective analgesic agents in many models of persistent pain. Such molecules are now being evaluated in clinical trials. NGF regulates the expression of a second neurotrophin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in nociceptors. BDNF is released when nociceptors are activated, and it acts as a central modulator of pain. The chapter reviews the evidence for these roles (and briefly the effects of other neurotrophins), the range of conditions under which they act, and their mechanism of action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factors / classification
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor