The expanding role of nerve growth factor: from neurotrophic activity to immunologic diseases

Allergy. 1997 Sep;52(9):883-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb01247.x.


Numerous studies published in the last 10-15 years have shown that nerve growth factor (NGF), a polypeptide originally discovered in connection with its neurotrophic activity, also acts on cells of the immune system. NGF has been found in various immune organs including the spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus, and cells such as mast cells, eosinophils, and B and T cells. The circulating levels of NGF increase in inflammatory responses, in various autoimmune diseases, in parasitic infections, and in allergic diseases. Stress-related events both in animal models and in man also result in an increase of NGF, suggesting that this molecule is involved in neuroendocrine functions. The rapid release of NGF is part of an alerting signal in response to either psychologically stressful or anxiogenic conditions in response to homeostatic alteration. Thus, the inflammation and stress-induced increase in NGF might alone or in association with other biologic mediators induce the activation of immune cells during immunologic insults. A clearer understanding of the role of NGF in these events may be useful to identify the mechanisms implicated in certain neuroimmune and immune dysfunctions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Endocrine Glands / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology


  • Nerve Growth Factors