The present study was designed to clarify the in vivo function of trkA as an NGF receptor in mammalian neurons. Using the rat sciatic nerve as a model system, we examined whether trkA is retrogradely transported and whether transport is influenced by physiological manipulations. Following nerve ligation, trkA protein accumulates distal to the ligation site as shown by Western blot analysis. The distally accumulating trkA species were tyrosine phosphorylated. The trkA retrograde transport and phosphorylation were enhanced by injecting an excess of NGF in the footpad and were abolished by blocking endogenous NGF with specific antibodies. These results provide evidence that, upon NGF binding, trkA is internalized and retrogradely transported in a phosphorylated state, possibly together with the neurotrophin. Furthermore, our results suggest that trkA is a primary retrograde NGF signal in mammalian neurons in vivo.

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