Expression of NGF/proNGF and Their Receptors TrkA, p75NTR and Sortilin in Melanoma

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Apr 12;23(8):4260. doi: 10.3390/ijms23084260.


There is increasing evidence that nerve growth factor (NGF) and its receptors, the neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase 1 (NTRK1/TrkA), the common neurotrophin receptor (NGFR/p75NTR) and the membrane receptor sortilin, participate in cancer growth. In melanoma, there have been some reports suggesting that NGF, TrkA and p75NTR are dysregulated, but the expression of the NGF precursor (proNGF) and its membrane receptor sortilin is unknown. In this study, we investigated the expression of NGF, proNGF, TrkA, p75NTR and sortilin by immunohistochemistry in a series of human tissue samples (n = 100), including non-cancerous nevi (n = 20), primary melanomas (n = 40), lymph node metastases (n = 20) and distant metastases (n = 20). Immunostaining was digitally quantified and revealed NGF and proNGF were expressed in all nevi and primary melanomas, and that the level of expression decreased from primary tumors to melanoma metastases (p = 0.0179 and p < 0.0001, respectively). Interestingly, TrkA protein expression was high in nevi and thin primary tumors but was strongly downregulated in thick primary tumors (p < 0.0001) and metastases (p < 0.0001). While p75NTR and sortilin were both expressed in most nevi and melanomas, there was no significant difference in expression between them. Together, these results pointed to a downregulation of NGF/ProNGF and TrkA in melanoma, and thus did not provide evidence to support the use of anti-proNGF/NGF or anti-TrkA therapies in advanced and metastatic forms of melanoma.

Keywords: NGF; TrkA; melanoma; p75NTR; proNGF; sortilin.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Humans
  • Melanoma*
  • Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Nevus*
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Receptor, trkA / genetics
  • Receptor, trkA / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA
  • sortilin