A role of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the neuro-endocrine-immune interactions has been recently suggested by the presence of NGF and its receptors in cells of the immune and endocrine systems. The improvement in the comprehension of the role played by NGF in humans is linked to the availability of a sensitive and reliable method to quantify NGF concentrations in body fluids and tissues. As a consequence of different methods used, normal levels of human serum NGF reported in the literature show wide differences. The present results indicate that ELISA appears very sensitive (detection limit 1.4 pg/ml) and allows the discrimination of subtle variations of serum NGF concentrations. ELISA performed in serum obtained from men indicated that NGF concentration was 40.8 ± 10.8 pg/ml, whereas women showed significantly lower levels that were influenced by the menstrual cycle. In particular, the mean value of this neurotrophin during the follicular phase was 8.2 ± 1.4 pg/ml; the luteal phase, in turn, showed levels up to 14.4 ± 2.9 pg/ml. The difference of serum NGF concentrations between the follicular and luteal phase in each woman was statistically significant. Differences in NGF concentrations between men and women (in both phases of the menstrual cycles) were also statistically significant. In conclusion, a possible role of sex steroids as modulators of NGF secretion in humans is strongly supported by the present paper. However, mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still unknown. The evidence indicating physiological sex hormone-related variations in NGF levels would be of interest in view of the possible use of circulating NGF modifications as a laboratory biomarker in different diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience