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Dev Biol. 1998 Jun 1;198(1):57-81.

Differential dependency of unmyelinated and A delta epidermal and upper dermal innervation on neurotrophins, trk receptors, and p75LNGFR.

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Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany Medical College, New York 12208, USA.


The impact of the nerve growth factor (NGF) family of neurotrophins and their receptors was examined on the cutaneous innervation in the mystacial pads of mice. Ten sets of unmyelinated and thinly myelinated sensory and autonomic innervation were evaluated that terminated in the epidermis, upper dermis, and upper part of the intervibrissal hair follicles. Mystacial pads were analyzed from newborn to 4-week-old mice that had homozygous functional deletions of the genes for NGF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), tyrosine kinase (trk) A, trkB, trkC, or p75. Mystacial pads were also analyzed in adult transgenic mice that had overproduction of NGF, BDNF, or NT-3 driven by a keratin promoter gene. The innervation was revealed by using immunofluorescence and immunocytochemistry with antibodies for protein gene product (PGP) 9.5, calcitonin gene-related product (CGRP), substance P (SP), galanin (GAL), neuropeptide Y (NPY), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), and a neurofilament protein. The cumulative results indicated that NGF/trkA signaling plays a major role in the outgrowth and proliferation of sensory axons, whereas NT-3/ trkA signaling plays a major role in the formation of sensory endings. TrkC is also essential for the development of three sets of trkA-dependent sensory innervation that coexpress CGRP, SP, and GAL. Another set of sensory innervation that only coexpressed CGRP and SP was solely dependent upon NGF and trkA. Surprisingly, most sets of trkA-dependent sensory innervation are suppressed by trkB perhaps interacting with p75. BDNF and NT-4 appear to mediate this suppressing effect in the upper dermis and NT-4 in the epidermis. In contrast to sensory innervation, sympathetic innervation to the necks of intervibrissal hair follicles depends upon NGF/trkA signaling interacting with p75 for both the axon outgrowth and ending formation. Although NT-3/trkA signaling is essential for the full complement of sympathetic neurons, NT-3 is detrimental to the formation of sympathetic terminations to the necks of hair follicles. TrkB signaling mediated by BDNF but not NT-4 also suppresses these sympathetic terminations. One sparse set of innervation, perhaps parasympathetic, terminating at the necks of hair follicles is dependent solely upon NT-3 and trkC. Taken together, our results indicate that the innervation of the epidermis, upper dermis, and the upper portion of hair follicles is regulated by a competitive balance between promoting and suppressing effects of the various neurotrophins.

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