Developmental Signals - Nerve Growth Factor

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Rita Levi-Montalcini
Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909 – 2012)
Viktor Hamburger (1900 – 2001)

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) was first discovered in the 1950's by Rita Levi-Montalcini with Stanley Cohen and Viktor Hamburger.[1][2] See review Levi-Montalcini review 30 years later.[3]

For which Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine.[4]

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1986 - Stanley Cohen, Rita Levi-Montalcini "for their discoveries of growth factors"

Draft page - Notice removed when completed.

Historical: Cohen S. Levi-Montalcini R. and Hamburger V. A nerve growth-stimulating factor isolated from sarcomas 37 and 180. (1954) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 40(10):1014-8. PMID: 16589582

Links: File:Rita Levi-Montalcini | Viktor Hamburger | Nobel Prize 1986 | Category:NGF

Note - NGF is also used as an acronym in ovary development for a Non-Growing Follicle.

Factor Links: AMH | hCG | BMP | sonic hedgehog | bHLH | HOX | FGF | FOX | Hippo | LIM | Nanog | NGF | Nodal | Notch | PAX | retinoic acid | SIX | Slit2/Robo1 | SOX | TBX | TGF-beta | VEGF | WNT | Category:Molecular

Neural Links: ectoderm | neural | neural crest | ventricular | sensory | Stage 22 | gliogenesis | neural fetal | Medicine Lecture - Neural | Lecture - Ectoderm | Lecture - Neural Crest | Lab - Early Neural | neural abnormalities | folic acid | iodine deficiency | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | neural postnatal | neural examination | Histology | Historic Neural | Category:Neural

Some Recent Findings

  • Neurotrophins and neurotrophin tyrosine kinase receptors expression during development of zebrafish[5] "Neurotrophins (NTF) are a family of secreted nerve growth factors with affinity for tyrosine kinase (Ntrk) and p75 receptors. ...Our study unveils new expression domains in the developing embryo, confirms those previously known, and shows that ntf and ntrk genes have different degrees of cell- and tissue-type specificity. The unique and overlapping expression patterns here depicted indicate the coordination of the redundant and divergent functions of NTFs and represent valuable tools for deciphering the molecular pathways involved in the specification and function of embryonic cell types." zebrafish
  • Molecular evolution of vertebrate neurotrophins[6] "Neurotrophins are a diverse class of structurally related proteins, essential for neuronal development, survival, plasticity and regeneration. They are characterized by major family members, such as the nerve growth factors (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), which have been demonstrated here to lack coding sequence variations and follow the regime of negative selection, highlighting their extremely important conserved role in vertebrate homeostasis."
  • Nerve growth factor: from the early discoveries to the potential clinical use[7] "The physiological role of the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) has been characterized, since its discovery in the 1950s, first in the sensory and autonomic nervous system, then in central nervous, endocrine and immune systems. NGF plays its trophic role both during development and in adulthood, ensuring the maintenance of phenotypic and functional characteristic of several populations of neurons as well as immune cells."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Nerve Growth Factor

Older papers  
These papers originally appeared in the Some Recent Findings table, but as that list grew in length have now been shuffled down to this collapsible table.

See also the Discussion Page for other references listed by year and References on this current page.






Links: Neural System Development

Signaling Pathway


Tyrosine Kinase Receptor A


NTKR1 gene encodes the neurotrophic tyrosine kinase-1 receptor and belongs to a family of nerve growth factor receptors.


Nerve Growth Factor Receptor

NGFR; p75(NTR)

Receptor binds at low affinity NGF and other neurotrophins: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NTF3), and neurotrophin-4 (NTF4).


Intracellular Signaling

Other Neural Growth Factors

  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
  • Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)
  • Neurotrophic 3 (NT3)


Neurotrophic Keratitis

A degenerative disease of the eye characterized by decreased corneal sensitivity and poor corneal healing. This is not directly related to NGF, other than the recent application of NGF in clinical trials for treatment of this disorder.[8]


About OMIM "Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man OMIM is a comprehensive, authoritative, and timely compendium of human genes and genetic phenotypes. The full-text, referenced overviews in OMIM contain information on all known mendelian disorders and over 12,000 genes. OMIM focuses on the relationship between phenotype and genotype. It is updated daily, and the entries contain copious links to other genetics resources." OMIM


  1. LEVI-MONTALCINI R & HAMBURGER V. (1951). Selective growth stimulating effects of mouse sarcoma on the sensory and sympathetic nervous system of the chick embryo. J. Exp. Zool. , 116, 321-61. PMID: 14824426
  2. Cohen S. Levi-Montalcini R. and Hamburger V. A nerve growth-stimulating factor isolated from sarcomas 37 and 180. (1954) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 40(10):1014-8. PMID: 16589582
  3. Levi-Montalcini R. (1987). The nerve growth factor: thirty-five years later. EMBO J. , 6, 1145-54. PMID: 3301324
  4. Melino G, Benedetti B & Bazan N. (2013). On Rita Levi-Montalcini. Mol. Neurobiol. , 47, 443-5. PMID: 23389287 DOI.
  5. Nittoli V, Sepe RM, Coppola U, D'Agostino Y, De Felice E, Palladino A, Vassalli QA, Locascio A, Ristoratore F, Spagnuolo A, D'Aniello S & Sordino P. (2018). A comprehensive analysis of neurotrophins and neurotrophin tyrosine kinase receptors expression during development of zebrafish. J. Comp. Neurol. , 526, 1057-1072. PMID: 29322524 DOI.
  6. Sunagar K, Fry BG, Jackson TN, Casewell NR, Undheim EA, Vidal N, Ali SA, King GF, Vasudevan K, Vasconcelos V & Antunes A. (2013). Molecular evolution of vertebrate neurotrophins: co-option of the highly conserved nerve growth factor gene into the advanced snake venom arsenalf. PLoS ONE , 8, e81827. PMID: 24312363 DOI.
  7. Aloe L, Rocco ML, Bianchi P & Manni L. (2012). Nerve growth factor: from the early discoveries to the potential clinical use. J Transl Med , 10, 239. PMID: 23190582 DOI.
  8. Bonini S, Lambiase A, Rama P, Sinigaglia F, Allegretti M, Chao W & Mantelli F. (2018). Phase 2 Randomized, Double-Masked, Vehicle-Controlled Trial of Recombinant Human Nerve Growth Factor for Neurotrophic Keratitis. Ophthalmology , , . PMID: 29653858 DOI.


Rocco ML, Soligo M, Manni L & Aloe L. (2018). Nerve Growth Factor: Early Studies And Recent Clinical Trials. Curr Neuropharmacol , , . PMID: 29651949 DOI.

Indo Y. (2018). NGF-dependent neurons and neurobiology of emotions and feelings: Lessons from congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev , 87, 1-16. PMID: 29407522 DOI.

Rocco ML, Soligo M, Manni L & Aloe L. (2018). Nerve Growth Factor: Early Studies And Recent Clinical Trials. Curr Neuropharmacol , , . PMID: 29651949 DOI.

Barald KF, Shen YC & Bianchi LM. (2018). Chemokines and cytokines on the neuroimmunoaxis: Inner ear neurotrophic cytokines in development and disease. Prospects for repair?. Exp. Neurol. , 301, 92-99. PMID: 29080793 DOI.

Su YW, Zhou XF, Foster BK, Grills BL, Xu J & Xian CJ. (2018). Roles of neurotrophins in skeletal tissue formation and healing. J. Cell. Physiol. , 233, 2133-2145. PMID: 28370021 DOI.

Heumann R. (1987). Regulation of the synthesis of nerve growth factor. J. Exp. Biol. , 132, 133-50. PMID: 3323396

Misko TP, Radeke MJ & Shooter EM. (1987). Nerve growth factor in neuronal development and maintenance. J. Exp. Biol. , 132, 177-90. PMID: 2828509

Levi-Montalcini R. (1987). The nerve growth factor: thirty-five years later. EMBO J. , 6, 1145-54. PMID: 3301324


Ceci FM, Ferraguti G, Petrella C, Greco A, Tirassa P, Iannitelli A, Ralli M, Vitali M, Ceccanti M, Chaldakov GN, Versacci P & Marco F. (2020). Nerve Growth Factor, Stress and Diseases. Curr. Med. Chem. , , . PMID: 32811396 DOI.

All Rita Levi-Montalcini PMID references

Kuypers E, Collins JJ, Jellema RK, Wolfs TG, Kemp MW, Nitsos I, Pillow JJ, Polglase GR, Newnham JP, Germeraad WT, Kallapur SG, Jobe AH & Kramer BW. (2012). Ovine fetal thymus response to lipopolysaccharide-induced chorioamnionitis and antenatal corticosteroids. PLoS ONE , 7, e38257. PMID: 22693607 DOI.

Online Textbooks

  • Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al.New York: Garland Science; 2002.
  • Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al.New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000.
  • Madame Curie Bioscience Database [Internet]. Austin (TX): Landes Bioscience; 2000.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, June 22) Embryology Developmental Signals - Nerve Growth Factor. Retrieved from

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