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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 15;94(8):4086-91.

Rapid suppression of free radical formation by nerve growth factor involves the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Center for the Study of Nervous System Injury, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Neurotrophins such as nerve growth factor (NGF) regulate neuronal survival during development and are neuroprotective in certain models of injury to both the peripheral and the central nervous system. Although many effects of neurotrophins involve long-term changes in gene expression, several recent reports have focused on rapid effects of neurotrophins that do not involve synthesis of new gene products. Because enhanced formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) represents one consequence of many insults that produce neuronal death, we hypothesized that neurotrophins might influence neuronal function and survival through acute alterations in the production of ROS. Using an oxidation-sensitive compound, dihydrorhodamine, we measured ROS formation in a central nervous system-derived neuronal cell line (GT1-1 trk) and in superior cervical ganglion neurons, both of which express the transmembrane NGF receptor tyrosine kinase, trkA. There was enhanced production of ROS in both cell types in the absence of NGF that was rapidly inhibited by application of NGF; complete inhibition of ROS generation in GT1-1 trk cells occurred within 10 min. NGF suppression of ROS formation was prevented by PD 098059, a specific inhibitor of MEK (mitogen/extracellular receptor kinase, which phosphorylates mitogen-activated protein kinase). The observation that NGF acutely blocks ROS formation in neurons through activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway suggests a novel mechanism for rapid neurotrophin signaling, and has implications for understanding neuroprotective and other effects of neurotrophins.

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