Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 200 - 204
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is literally known to promote neural differentiation and survival in several peripheral and central neurons. Thus, it is widely believed that NGF may serve as a therapeutic agent for many types of neuronal diseases. One of the mechanisms suggested to explain the protective role of NGF is that the trophic factor can prevent the increase of intracellular calcium ions which might be responsible for neural death. To examine whether or not the calcium hypothesis works even under pathological conditions, we applied NGF to cultures deprived of glucose. Surprisingly, what was observed here is that NGF rather promoted cell death under a glucose-deprived condition. What we call the NGF paradox phenomenon occurred in a calcium concentration-dependent manner, indirectly suggesting that NGF might increase intracellular calcium ions in cells deprived of glucose. This suggestion is further supported by the fact that nifedipine, a well-known L-type calcium channel blocker, could block the cell death potentiated by NGF. Here it is still premature to propose the complete mechanism underlying the NGF paradox phenomenon. However, this study certainly indicates that NGF as a therapeutic agent for neuronal diseases should be carefully considered before use.