The neurotrophins are a family of peptides that promote survival, growth, and differentiation of neurons. Neurotrophins may also influence the function of nonneuronal cell types, including immune cells. The development and maintenance of asthma is thought to involve the nervous system and the immune system, but the role that neurotrophins play in asthma is unknown. The cellular sources of the neurotrophins include mast cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, epithelial cells, smooth muscle cells, and eosinophils. The activation of neurotrophin receptors in immune cells and neurons involves ligand-induced homodimerization, which leads to activation of intrinsic Trk receptor kinase. The exact consequences of activating these receptors on immune cells is unknown, but rather than having unique actions on immune cells, the neurotrophins appear to act in concert with known immune regulating factors to modulate the maturation, accumulation, proliferation, and activation of immune cells. Neurotrophins can modulate afferent nerve function by stimulating the production of neuropeptides within airway afferent neurons. These neuropeptides may be released from the central terminals of airway afferent neurons, which leads to heightened autonomic reflex activity, and increased reactivity in the airways. (C) 2001 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine