The nerve growth factor and its receptors in airway inflammatory diseases

Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jan;117(1):52-76. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2007.07.003. Epub 2007 Aug 22.


The nerve growth factor (NGF) belongs to the neurotrophin family and induces its effects through activation of 2 distinct receptor types: the tropomyosin-related kinase A (TrkA) receptor, carrying an intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity in its intracellular domain, and the receptor p75 for neurotrophins (p75NTR), belonging to the death receptor family. Through activation of its TrkA receptor, NGF activates signalling pathways, including phospholipase Cgamma (PLCgamma), phosphatidyl-inositol 3-kinase (PI3K), the small G protein Ras, and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK). Through its p75NTR receptor, NGF activates proapoptotic signalling pathways including the MAPK c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), ceramides, and the small G protein Rac, but also activates pathways promoting cell survival through the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB). NGF was first described by Rita Levi-Montalcini and collaborators as an important factor involved in nerve differentiation and survival. Another role for NGF has since been established in inflammation, in particular of the airways, with increased NGF levels in chronic inflammatory diseases. In this review, we will first describe NGF structure and synthesis and NGF receptors and their signalling pathways. We will then provide information about NGF in the airways, describing its expression and regulation, as well as pointing out its potential role in inflammation, hyperresponsiveness, and remodelling process observed in airway inflammatory diseases, in particular in asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factor