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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 22;276(25):23097-104. Epub 2001 Apr 18.

The p75 neurotrophin receptor activates Akt (protein kinase B) through a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-dependent pathway.

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Centre for Neuronal Survival, Montreal Neurological Institute, and the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 2B4, Canada.


The Akt kinase plays a crucial role in supporting Trk-dependent cell survival, whereas the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) facilitates cellular apoptosis. The precise mechanism that p75NTR uses to promote cell death is not certain, but one possibility is that p75NTR-dependent ceramide accumulation inhibits phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-mediated Akt activation. To test this hypothesis, we developed a system for examining p75NTR-dependent apoptosis and determined the effect of p75NTR on Akt activation. Surprisingly, p75NTR increased, rather than decreased, Akt phosphorylation in a variety of cell types, including human Niemann-Pick fibroblasts, which lack acidic sphingomyelinase activity. The p75NTR expression level required to elicit Akt phosphorylation was much lower than that required to activate the JNK pathway or to mediate apoptosis. We show that p75NTR-dependent Akt phosphorylation was independent of TrkA signaling, required active phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, and was associated with increased tyrosine phosphorylation of p85 and Shc and with reduced cytosolic tyrosine phosphatase activity. Finally, we show that p75NTR expression increased survival in cells exposed to staurosporine or subjected to serum withdrawal. These findings indicate that p75NTR facilitates cell survival through novel signaling cascades that result in Akt activation.

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