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Nerve growth factor (NGF) - Its Structure, Formation, Function and role in Neurological Disease

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neurotrophic factor, a type of protein that is important for the growth, survival, and maintenance of nerve cells in the peripheral and central nervous systems.


NGF is a small protein composed of 118 amino acids that forms a homodimer, consisting of two identical subunits. The protein has a compact, globular structure with a disulfide bond that stabilizes its dimeric form.


NGF is primarily produced and secreted by target tissues, such as the skin, bone, and muscle, and is then taken up and transported by nerve fibers to their cell bodies in the spinal cord and brain. NGF is also synthesized and released by immune cells in response to injury or inflammation.


The primary function of NGF is to promote the survival, growth, and differentiation of nerve cells, including sensory neurons, sympathetic neurons, and cholinergic neurons in the central nervous system. NGF acts by binding to specific receptors on the surface of nerve cells, triggering intracellular signaling pathways that promote cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation. NGF is also involved in the regulation of synaptic plasticity, which is important for learning and memory.

Role in neurological disease: 

NGF has been implicated in the pathophysiology of several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain. In Alzheimer's disease, for example, there is a reduction in NGF levels in the brain, which is thought to contribute to the degeneration of cholinergic neurons and the cognitive deficits associated with the disease. In Parkinson's disease, NGF has been investigated as a potential therapy to promote the survival and function of dopaminergic neurons, which are selectively lost in the disease. In neuropathic pain, NGF has been shown to play a key role in the sensitization of pain pathways, and therapies that target NGF signaling are being developed to treat the condition.