Nerve growth factor (NGF) plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system. Recent studies from this laboratory demonstrated the presence of functional NGF receptors on human B lymphocytes; in addition, NGF has been shown to enhance B lymphocyte proliferation. NGF caused both concentration- and time-dependent increases in tyrosine phosphorylation of five proteins of 140, 110, 85, 60 and 42 kDa, which were identified as phospholipase C-gamma 1, phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase. To elucidate the contribution of the Trk family of tyrosine kinases to the phosphorylation events induced by NGF, we identified gp140trk in human B cells and in human B cell lines. Analysis of specific gp140trk immunoprecipitates indicated that addition of NGF to B cells induced a rapid increase in the tyrosine phosphorylation of gp140trk and inhibition of this phosphorylation prevented the tyrosine phosphorylation of other proteins. These data identify the central role of gp40trk in NGF signaling of human B lymphocytes.