Immunoexpression of BDNF, TrkB, and p75NTR receptors in peripheral neural lesions of the head and neck

J Oral Pathol Med. 2021 May;50(5):492-501. doi: 10.1111/jop.13145. Epub 2020 Dec 30.


Background: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin receptors have been recognized as fundamental regulators of normal brain development, homeostasis, and plasticity. They have also been studied in the behavior of central nervous system tumors. Here, we studied the pattern of BDNF, TrkB and p75NTR immunoexpression in peripheral benign and malignant neural lesions in head and neck.

Methods: This cross-sectional analytical study included 79 cases of head and neck neural lesions. Nineteen cases of traumatic neuromas (TN), 20 cases of granular cell tumors (GCT), 16 cases of neurofibromas (NF), 20 cases of schwannomas (SC), and 4 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) were submitted to immunohistochemistry with BDNF, TrkB, and p75NTR antibodies. A semi-quantitative analysis was performed.

Results: The analysis of BDNF demonstrated a high percentage of positive cells in TN, GCT and SC with a decrease in cases of NF and MPNST. TrkB presented a lower significant immunoexpression in GCT in relation to the TN, NF, SC, and MPNST (P < .0001); and TN showed less percentage of positive cell compared to SC (P = .0017). Regarding p75NTR, the percentage of positive cell was significantly reduced in MPNST compared GCT (P = .009), NF (P = .0138) and SC (P = .0069). Also, a decrease in TN compared to GCT (P = .007) was observed.

Conclusions: Our results showed the immunoreactivity of BDNF, TrkB, and p75NTR in head and neck peripheral neural lesions. Reduction of BDNF and p75NTR in MPNST might suggest down-regulation during the acquisition of malignant phenotype.

Keywords: BDNF protein; P75NTR; neurotrophins; peripheral nervous system neoplasms; receptor trkB.

MeSH terms

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor* / metabolism
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Down-Regulation
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor* / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NGFR protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkB
  • tropomyosin-related kinase-B, human