Nerve growth factor (NGF) is the founding member of the neurotrophins family of proteins. It was discovered more than half a century ago through its ability to promote sensory and sympathetic neuronal survival and axonal growth during the development of the peripheral nervous system, and is the paradigmatic target-derived neurotrophic factor on which the neurotrophic hypothesis is based. Since that time, NGF has also been shown to play a key role in the generation of acute and chronic pain and in hyperalgesia in diverse pain states. NGF is expressed at high levels in damaged or inflamed tissues and facilitates pain transmission by nociceptive neurons through a variety of mechanisms. Genetic mutations in NGF or its tyrosine kinase receptor TrkA, lead to a congenital insensitivity or a decreased ability of humans to perceive pain. The hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathies (HSANs) encompass a spectrum of neuropathies that affect one's ability to perceive sensation. HSAN type IV and HSAN type V are caused by mutations in TrkA and NGF respectively. This review will focus firstly on the biology of NGF and its role in pain modulation. We will review neuropathies and clinical presentations that result from the disruption of NGF signalling in HSAN type IV and HSAN type V and review current advances in developing anti-NGF therapy for the clinical management of pain.
© 2012 The Authors Journal of Neurochemistry © 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry.