Neuroblastomas (NBs) with favorable outcome usually express TrkA, whereas unfavorable NBs frequently express TrkB and its cognate ligand BDNF. P75 (p75(LNTR), NGFR, TNFRSF16) binds NGF-related neurotrophins with low affinity and usually is coexpressed with Trk receptors in NBs. Here, we investigated the importance of p75 coexpression with Trk receptors in NBs. We transfected p75 into two Trk-null NB cell lines, SH-SY5Y and NLF that were also engineered to stably express TrkA or TrkB. Cell numbers were compared between single (Trk alone) and double (Trk+p75) transfectants, and proliferation was assessed by flow cytometry. P75 coexpression had little effect on cell growth in Trk NB cells in the absence of ligand, but it increased sensitivity and greatly enhanced the effect of cognate ligand. Exogenous NGF induced greater phosphorylation of TrkA and AKT. This was associated with increased cell number in TrkA/p75 cells compared to TrkA cells (p<0.01), which was due to increased proliferation in TrkA/p75 cells (p<0.05), followed by differentiation. Exogenous BDNF also increased cell number in TrkB/p75 compared to TrkB cells (p<0.01), due to an increase in proliferation, but without differentiation. Coexpression of p75 also increased specificity of Trk-expressing cells to ligand. NT3-induced phosphorylation of TrkA and AKT was reduced in TrkA/p75 cells. NT3-induced phosphorylation of TrkB (as well as AKT and MAPK) was also reduced with p75 coexpression. Our results suggest that p75 plays an important role in enhancing both the sensitivity of Trk receptors to low levels of ligand, as well as increasing the specificity of Trks to their cognate ligands. It also enhances ligand-induced differentiation in TrkA/p75 but not TrkB/p75 cells.
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