Death of oligodendrocytes mediated by the interaction of nerve growth factor with its receptor p75

Nature. 1996 Oct 24;383(6602):716-9. doi: 10.1038/383716a0.


Members of the nerve growth factor (NGF) family promote the survival of neurons during development. NGF specifically activates the receptor trkA, initiating a signal transduction cascade which ultimately blocks cell death. Here we show that NGF can have the opposite effect, inducing the death of mature oligodendrocytes cultured from postnatal rat cerebral cortex. This effect was highly specific, because NGF had no effect on oligodendrocyte precursors and astrocytes. Other neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophin factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) did not induce cell death. NGF binding to mature oligodendrocytes expressing the p75 neurotrophin receptor, but not trkA, resulted in a sustained increase of intracellular ceramide and c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK) activity, which are thought to participate in a signal transduction pathway leading to cell death. Taken together, these results indicate that NGF has the ability to promote cell death in specific cell types through a ligand-dependent signalling mechanism involving the p75 neurotrophin receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ceramides
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases