Expression and function of TRK-B and BDNF in human neuroblastomas.


There is considerable interest in the role of the TRK family of neuotrophin receptors in regulating growth and differentiation in normal and neoplastic nerve cells. A neuroblastoma is a common pediatric tumor derived from the neural crest, and the majority of favorable neuroblastomas express a high level of TRK-A mRNA. However, little is known about the expression or function of TRK-B in these tumors. TRK-B encodes a tyrosine kinase that binds to brain-derived neuotrophic factor (BDNF), as well as neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and NT-4/5. We have studied the N-myc-amplified human neuroblastoma cell line, SMS-KCN, which expresses both TRK-B and BDNF. Exogenous BDNF induces tyrosine phosphorylation of TRK-B as well as phosphorylation of phospholipase C-gamma 1, the extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2, and phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase. BDNF also induces expression of the immediate-early genes c-FOS and NGFI-A but not NGFI-B or NGFI-C. In addition, BDNF appears to promote cell survival and neurite outgrowth. SMS-KCN cells also express TRK-A, which is phosphorylated in response to nerve growth factor. However, the downstream TRK-A signaling is apparently defective. Finally, we determined that in a series of 74 primary neuroblastomas, 36% express TRK-B mRNA, 68% express BDNF mRNA, and 31% express both. Truncated TRK-B appears to be preferentially expressed in more-differentiated tumors (ganglioneuromas and ganglioneuroblastomas), whereas full-length TRK-B is expressed almost exclusively in immature neuroblastomas with N-myc amplification. Our findings suggest that in TRK-B-expressing human neuroblastomas, BDNF promotes survival and induces neurite outgrowth in an autocrine or paracrine manner. The BDNF/TRK-B pathway may be particularly important for growth and differentiation of neuroblastomas with N-myc amplification.

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