ProNGF\NGF imbalance triggers learning and memory deficits, neurodegeneration and spontaneous epileptic-like discharges in transgenic mice

C. Tiveron, L. Fasulo, S. Capsoni, F. Malerba, S. Marinelli, F. Paoletti, S. Piccinin, R. Scardigli, G. Amato, R. Brandi, P. Capelli, S. D'Aguanno, F. Florenzano, F. La Regina, A. Lecci, A. Manca, G. Meli, L. Pistillo, N. Berretta, R. NisticòF. Pavone, A. Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ProNGF, the precursor of mature nerve growth factor (NGF), is the most abundant form of NGF in the brain. ProNGF and mature NGF differ significantly in their receptor interaction properties and in their bioactivity. ProNGF increases markedly in the cortex of Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains and proNGF\NGF imbalance has been postulated to play a role in neurodegeneration. However, a direct proof for a causal link between increased proNGF and AD neurodegeneration is lacking. In order to evaluate the consequences of increased levels of proNGF in the postnatal brain, transgenic mice expressing a furin cleavage-resistant form of proNGF, under the control of the neuron-specific mouse Thy1.2 promoter, were derived and characterized. Different transgenic lines displayed a phenotypic gradient of neurodegenerative severity features. We focused the analysis on the two lines TgproNGF#3 and TgproNGF#72, which shared learning and memory impairments in behavioral tests, cholinergic deficit and increased Aβ-peptide immunoreactivity. In addition, TgproNGF#3 mice developed Aβ oligomer immunoreactivity, as well as late diffuse astrocytosis. Both TgproNGF lines also display electrophysiological alterations related to spontaneous epileptic-like events. The results provide direct evidence that alterations in the proNGF/NGF balance in the adult brain can be an upstream driver of neurodegeneration, contributing to a circular loop linking alterations of proNGF/NGF equilibrium to excitatory/inhibitory synaptic imbalance and amyloid precursor protein (APP) dysmetabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1030
Number of pages14
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Alzheimer
  • Cholinergic deficit
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurotrophin
  • NGF
  • proNGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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