Novel, Functional Interactions Between TrkA Kinase and p75 Neurotrophin Receptor in Neuroblastoma Cells: A Dissertation

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Neuroblastoma; Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases; Receptor, trkA; Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


To understand the functional interactions between the TrkA and p75 nerve growth factor (NGF) receptors, we employed several lines of investigation including biophysical, biochemical and cellular assays. A high-affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor is thought to be a complex of two receptors, p75 and the receptor tyrosine kinase, TrkA. The existence of a gp75-TrkA complex was demonstrated by a copatching technique. p75 on the surface of intact cells is patched with an anti-p75 antibody and fluorescent secondary antibody, the cells are then fixed to prevent further antibody-induced redistributions, and the distribution of TrkA is probed with an anti-TrkA antibody and fluorescent secondary antibody. We utilize a baculovirus-insect cell expression system, which allows high level expression of wild-type and mutated NGF receptors. TrkA and p75 copatch in both the absence and presence of NGF. This association is specific, since p75 does not copatch with other tyrosine kinase receptors, including TrkB, platelet-derived growth factor receptor-β and Torso (Tor). To determine which domains of TrkA are required for copatching, we used a series of TrkA-Tor chimeric receptors and show that the extracellular domain of TrkA is sufficient for copatching with p75. A chimeric receptor with TrkA transmembrane and intracellular domains shows partial copatching with p75. Deletion of the intracellular domain of p75 decreases but does not eliminate copatching. A point mutation that inactivates the TrkA kinase has no effect on copatching, indicating that this enzymatic activity is not required for association with p75. Hence, although interactions between the p75 and TrkA extracellular domains are sufficient for complex formation, interactions involving other receptor domains also play a role.

To study what signal transduction mechanisms were activated by the two receptors to bring about differentiation and survival, we stably transfected LAN5 neuroblastoma cells with an expression vector for ET-R, a chimeric receptor with the extracellular domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the TrkA transmembrane and intracellular domains. EGF activated the ET-R kinase and induced partial differentiation. NGF, which can bind to endogenous p75, did not induce differentiation, but enhanced the EGF-induced response, leading to differentiation of almost all of the cells. A mutated NGF, 3T-NGF, that binds to TrkA but not to p75 did not synergize with EGF. Enhancement of EGF-induced differentiation required at least nanomolar concentrations of NGF, consistent with the low-affinity p75 binding site. EGF may induce a limited number of neuronal cells because it also enhances apoptosis. Both NGF and a caspase inhibitor reduced apoptosis and, thereby, enhanced differentiation. NGF appears to enhance survival through the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) pathway. Consistent with this hypothesis, Akt, a downstream effector of the PI3K pathway, was hyperphosphorylated in the presence of EGF+NGF. These results demonstrate that TrkA kinase initiates differentiation, and p75 enhances differentiation by rescuing differentiating cells from apoptosis via the PI3K pathway.

Even though both EGF and NGF are required for differentiation of LAN5/ET-R cells, only NGF is required for survival of the differentiated cells. In the absence of NGF, the cells die by an apoptotic mechanism, involving caspase-3. An anti-p75 antibody blocked the survival effect of NGF. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor also enhanced cell survival, indicating that in differentiated cells, NGF acts through the p75 receptor to prevent apoptosis.


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