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J Anat. 2003 Jul;203(1):1-19.

Neurotrophins and the immune system.

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  • 1Departamento de Morfología y Biología Celular, Instituto Universitario de Oncología del Principado de Asturias, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.


The neurotrophins are a family of polypeptide growth factors that are essential for the development and maintenance of the vertebrate nervous system. In recent years, data have emerged indicating that neurotrophins could have a broader role than their name might suggest. In particular, the putative role of NGF and its receptor TrkA in immune system homeostasis has become a much studied topic, whereas information on the other neurotrophins is scarce in this regard. This paper reviews what is known about the expression and possible functions of neurotrophins and their receptors in different immune tissues and cells, as well as recent data obtained from studies of transgenic mice in our laboratory. Results from studies to date support the idea that neurotrophins may regulate some immune functions. They also play an important role in the development of the thymus and in the survival of thymocytes.

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