It is beyond doubt that the neurotrophin family of proteins plays key roles in determining the fate of the neuron, not only during embryonic development, but also in the adult brain. Neurotrophins such as NGF (nerve growth factor) and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) can play dual roles: first, in neuronal survival and death, and, secondly, in activity-dependent plasticity. The neurotrophins manifest their effects by binding to two discrete receptor subtypes: the Trk (tropomyosin receptor kinase) family of RTKs (receptor tyrosine kinases) and the p75NTR (p75 neurotrophin receptor). The differential activation of these receptors by the mature neurotrophins and their precursors, the proneurotrophins, renders analysis of the biological functions of these receptors in the adult brain highly complex. Here, we briefly give a broad review of current knowledge of the roles of neurotrophins in the adult brain, including expression of hippocampal plasticity, neurodegeneration and exercise-induced neuroprotection.

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