Characterization of neurotrophin and Trk receptor functions in developing sensory ganglia: direct NT-3 activation of TrkB neurons in vivo

Neuron. 1998 Aug;21(2):325-34. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)80542-5.


Spinal sensory ganglia have been shown to contain neuronal subpopulations with different functions and neurotrophin dependencies. Neurotrophins act, in large part, through Trk receptor tyrosine kinases: nerve growth factor (NGF) via TrkA, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-4/5 (NT-4/5) via TrkB, and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) via TrkC. In the present paper, we use antibodies to TrkA, TrkB, and TrkC to characterize their expression patterns and to determine which subpopulations of cells are lost in mice lacking individual neurotrophins or Trk receptors. Despite previous reports of Trk receptor mRNAs in neural crest cells, we detect Trk receptor proteins only in neurons and not in neural crest cells or neuronal precursors. Comparisons of neonatal mice deficient in NT-3 or its cognate receptor TrkC have shown that there is a much greater deficiency in spinal sensory neurons in the former, suggesting that NT-3 may activate receptors in addition to TrkC. Using the same antibodies, we show that, during the major period of neurogenesis, NT-3 is required to maintain neurons that express TrkB in addition to those that express TrkC but is not essential for neurons expressing TrkA. Results also indicate that survival of cells expressing both receptors can be maintained by activation of either one alone. NT-3 can thus activate more than one Trk receptor in vivo, which when coexpressed are functionally redundant.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology
  • Ganglia, Sensory / cytology
  • Ganglia, Sensory / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology
  • Receptor, Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Receptor, trkC
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / physiology*


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptor, Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Receptor, trkC