Neurotrophic Factors and Neuronal Death

  1. Gregory Bock Organizer and
  2. Maeve O'Connor
  1. Hans Thoenen,
  2. Yves-Alain Barde,
  3. Alun M. Davies and
  4. James E. Johnson

Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470513422.ch6

Ciba Foundation Symposium 126 - Selective Neuronal Death

Ciba Foundation Symposium 126 - Selective Neuronal Death

How to Cite

Thoenen, H., Barde, Y.-A., Davies, A. M. and Johnson, J. E. (2007) Neurotrophic Factors and Neuronal Death, in Ciba Foundation Symposium 126 - Selective Neuronal Death (eds G. Bock and M. O'Connor), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470513422.ch6

Author Information

  1. Department of Neurochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, D-8033 Planegg-Martinsried, FRG

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471910923

Online ISBN: 9780470513422



  • neurotrophic factors;
  • neuronal death;
  • nerve growth factor;
  • sensory neurons;
  • 6-hydroxydopamine


The well-documented physiological role of nerve growth factor (NGF) in peripheral sympathetic and neural-crest-derived sensory neurons in vivo has its exact counterpart in vitro. This provided the conceptual basis for developing in vitro analytical procedures for the purification of new neurotrophic molecules. The experimental approaches used are discussed in the context of the purification of new neurotrophic factors, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF). The importance of the modulatory role played by extracellular matrix molecules, in particular laminin, on both NGF-mediated and BDNF-mediated survival effects is also delineated. BDNF is a very basic (pI ≈ 10) molecule of about 12 kDa, having physicochemical characteristics close to those of the monomer of NGF. However, the spectrum of its biological actions is distinctly different from that of NGF. In particular, BDNF supports the survival of retinal ganglion cells and placode-derived peripheral sensory neurons which are not supported by NGF. The trophic supply of primary sensory neurons projecting to both the central nervous system and the periphery is discussed. It is hypothesized that sensory neurons receive limited quantities of neurotrophic molecules from both peripheral and central axons, a mechanism ensuring the survival of neurons adequately connected with both peripheral and central targets.