Abstract

The development and maintenance of the nervous system depends on proteins known as neurotrophic factors. Although the prototypical neurotrophic factor, nerve growth factor (NGF), has been intensively studied for decades, the discovery and characterization of additional such factors has been impeded by their low abundance. Sequence homologies between NGF and the recently cloned brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were used to design a strategy that has now resulted in the cloning of a gene encoding a novel neurotrophic factor, termed neurotrophin-3 (NT-3). The distribution of NT-3 messenger RNA and its biological activity on a variety of neuronal populations clearly distinguish NT-3 from NGF and BDNF, and provide compelling evidence that NT-3 is an authentic neurotrophic factor that has its own characteristic role in vivo.

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