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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 20;101(16):6226-30. Epub 2004 Mar 16.

Secreted proNGF is a pathophysiological death-inducing ligand after adult CNS injury.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry, Center for Molecular Neurobiology, and Biochemistry Program, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


The unprocessed precursor of the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF), proNGF, has been suggested to be a death-inducing ligand for the neurotrophin receptor p75. Whether proNGF is a true pathophysiological ligand that is secreted, binds p75, and activates cell death in vivo, however, has remained unknown. Here, we report that after brain injury, proNGF was induced and secreted in an active form capable of triggering apoptosis in culture. We further demonstrate that proNGF binds p75 in vivo and that disruption of this binding results in complete rescue of injured adult corticospinal neurons. These data together suggest that proNGF binding to p75 is responsible for the death of adult corticospinal neurons after lesion, and they help to establish proNGF as the pathophysiological ligand that activates the cell-death program by means of p75 after brain injury. Interference in the binding of proNGF to p75 may provide a therapeutic approach for the treatment of disorders involving neuronal loss.

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