TrkB/BDNF signalling patterns the sympathetic nervous system

Nat Commun. 2015 Sep 25;6:8281. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9281.


The sympathetic nervous system is essential for maintaining mammalian homeostasis. How this intricately connected network, composed of preganglionic neurons that reside in the spinal cord and post-ganglionic neurons that comprise a chain of vertebral sympathetic ganglia, arises developmentally is incompletely understood. This problem is especially complex given the vertebral chain of sympathetic ganglia derive secondarily from the dorsal migration of 'primary' sympathetic ganglia that are initially located several hundred microns ventrally from their future pre-synaptic partners. Here we report that the dorsal migration of discrete ganglia is not a simple migration of individual cells but a much more carefully choreographed process that is mediated by extensive interactions of pre-and post-ganglionic neurons. Dorsal migration does not occur in the absence of contact with preganglionic axons, and this is mediated by BDNF/TrkB signalling. Thus BDNF released by preganglionic axons acts chemotactically on TrkB-positive sympathetic neurons, to pattern the developing peripheral nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Fibers, Preganglionic / metabolism*
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemotaxis*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Receptor, trkB / genetics
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spinal Cord
  • Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Time-Lapse Imaging


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptor, trkB