Indexed on: 05 Jun '95Published on: 05 Jun '95Published in: Journal of Comparative Neurology
A family of tyrosine receptor kinases known collectively as trk receptors plays an essential role in signal transduction mediated by nerve growth factor and related neurotrophins. To localize the major trk receptors (trkA, B and C) in the developing and adult central (CNS) and peripheral (PNS) nervous system, we generated monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to extracellular (MAbs E7, E13, E16, E21, E29) and intracellular (MAb I2) domains of human trkA fused to glutathione S-transferase. Several MAbs (E7, E13, E16) recognized glycosylated trkA (gp140trk and gp110trk) in Western blots, one MAb (E7) recognized non-glycosylated (p80trk) and glycosylated trkA in immunoprecipitation assays, and two MAbs (E13, E29) detected trkA on the cell surface of NIH3T3 cells transfected with a trkA cDNA. Although generated to trkA fusion proteins, this panel of MAbs also recognized trkB and trkC in flow cytometric studies of NIH3T3 cells transfected with trkB or trkC cDNAs. Thus, we used these pan-trk MAbs to probe selected regions of the CNS and PNS including the hippocampus, nucleus basalis of Meynert, cerebellum, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) to localize trkA, B, and C receptors in the developing and adult human nervous system. These studies showed that trk receptors are expressed primarily by neurons and are detectable very early in the developing hippocampus, cerebellum, spinal cord, and DRG. Although the distribution and intensity of trk immunoreactivity changed with the progressive maturation of the CNS and PNS, immunoreactive trk receptors were detected in neurons of the adult human hippocampus, nucleus basalis of Meynert, cerebellum, spinal cord, and DRG. This first study of trk receptor proteins in the developing and adult human CNS and PNS documents the expression of these receptors in subsets of neurons throughout the developing and adult nervous system. Thus, although the expression of trk receptor proteins is developmentally regulated, the constitutive expression of these neurotrophin receptors by neurons in many regions of the adult human CNS and PNS implies that mature trk receptor-bearing neurons retain the ability to respond to neurotrophins long after terminal neuronal differentiation is complete.