Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a potent regulator of sympathetic neuronal function in both developing and adult animals. This article reviews the evidence published in recent years indicating that another member of the NGF family, neurotrophin 3 (NT3), plays both a complementary and overlapping role in the development and maturation of sympathetic neurons. In migratory neural crest cells, expression of the high-affinity receptor, trkC, and promotion of mitosis by NT3 suggest an involvement in gangliogenesis, since sympathetic neuroblasts express both NT3 and trkC and require NT3 for their proliferation, differentiation, and survival, it has been proposed that the factor acts at this developmental stage as an autocrine or paracrine factor. However, NT3 also acts in parallel with NGF to promote the survival of postmitotic neurons during late development. Both trkC and trkA are expressed in sympathetic neurons and function as high-affinity receptors for NT3. NT3 is synthesized in sympathetic effector tissues and the endogenous factor is retrogradely transported to accumulate within the cell soma. Thus, in addition to its role in the differentiation of sympathetic neurons, NT3, like NGF, is also an effector tissue-derived neurotrophic factor for these neurons in maturity.
- Neurotrophic factors
- Sympathetic neurons