Regulation of cell survival decisions and neuronal plasticity by neurotrophins are mediated by two classes of receptors, Trks (tropomyosin receptor kinases) and p75, the first discovered member of the tumour necrosis factor receptor superfamily. The p75 receptor participates with the TrkA receptor in the formation of high-affinity nerve growth factor-binding sites to promote survival under limiting concentrations of neurotrophins. Activation of Trk receptors leads to increased phosphorylation of Shc (Src homology and collagen homology), phospholipase C-γ and novel adaptor molecules, such as the ARMS (ankyrin-rich membrane spanning)/Kidins220 protein. Small ligands that interact with G-protein-coupled receptors can also activate Trk receptor kinase activity. Transactivation of Trk receptors and their downstream signalling pathways raise the possibility of using small molecules to elicit neuroprotective effects for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Like amyloid precursor protein and Notch, p75 is a substrate for γ-secretase cleavage. The p75 receptor undergoes an α-secretase-mediated release of the extracellular domain followed by a γ-secretase-mediated intramembrane cleavage. Cleavage of p75 may represent a general mechanism for transmitting signals as an independent receptor and as a co-receptor for other signalling systems.

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