Evolutionary conservation of members of the NGF family in vertebrates was studied by DNA sequence analysis of PCR fragments for NGF, BDNF, and NT-3 from human, rat, chicken, viper, Xenopus, salmon, and ray. The results showed that the three factors are highly conserved from fishes to mammals. Phylogenetic trees reflecting the evolution and speciation of the members of the NGF family were constructed. In addition, the gene for a fourth member of the family, neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), was isolated from Xenopus and viper. The NT-4 gene encodes a precursor protein of 236 amino acids, which is processed into a 123 amino acid mature NT-4 protein with 50%-60% amino acid identity to NGF, BDNF, and NT-3. The NT-4 protein was shown to interact with the low affinity NGF receptor and elicited neurite outgrowth from explanted dorsal root ganglia with no and lower activity in sympathetic and nodose ganglia, respectively. Northern blot analysis of different tissues from Xenopus showed NT-4 mRNA only in ovary, where it was present at levels over 100-fold higher than those of NGF mRNA in heart.
1991. Vol. 6, no 5, 845-58 p.