Although neurotrophic factors were originally isolated on the basis of their ability to support the survival of neurons, these molecules are now thought to influence many aspects of the development and maintenance of the nervous system. Identifying the receptors for these neurotrophic factors should aid in identifying the cells on which these factors act and in understanding their precise mechanisms of action. A "tagged-ligand panning" procedure was used to clone a receptor for ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF). This receptor is expressed exclusively within the nervous system and skeletal muscle. The CNTF receptor has a structure unrelated to the receptors utilized by the nerve growth factor family of neurotrophic molecules, but instead is most homologous to the receptor for a cytokine, interleukin-6. This similarity suggestes that the CNTF receptor, like the interleukin-6 receptor, requires a second, signal-transducing component. In contrast to all known receptors, the CNTF receptor is anchored to cell membranes by a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol linkage.

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