The precursor of Nerve Growth Factor (proNGF) is the predominant form of NGF in the brain, where its tissue levels are increased in neurodegenerative diseases. proNGF exists in two main splicing variants, the long proNGF-A and the short proNGF-B. We demonstrated that proNGF-B is selectively increased in the hippocampus of rats affected by early diabetic encephalopathy and that native, purified proNGFs elicit different responses when used to stimulate PC12 cells. Therefore, the evaluation of the proNGF-B/proNGF-A ratio may be of important diagnostic and prognostic value in pathologies characterized by dysfunctions of NGF system. To date there is not clear pharmacological characterization of the different proNGFs variants, due to the lack of a proper recombinant proNGF-A. Using a bioinformatics approach, we predicted aminoacid sites involved in proNGF-A intracellular cleavage/conversion into proNGF-B, we cloned and expressed non-cleavable proNGF-A in HeLa cells and pursued a first characterization of their secretion modalities. Finally, we studied the biological effects of different proNGF-A mutants, stimulating PC12 cells with conditioned media from transfected HeLa cells. Based on our results, we propose the A73Y mutation as essential to obtaining an intact proNGF-A, limiting its conversion to proNGF-B. proNGF-A A73Y is probably released in an activity dependent manner and, when supplied to PC12 cells, shows a moderate differentiative capacity opposed to high neuroprotective potential. This preliminary study lays the foundation for future research aimed at uncovering the selective biological activities of proNGF-A and proNGF-B, and at developing pharmacological treatments that target the unbalance of proNGF system, induced by neurodegeneration.
- GenBank accession number MH358394
- HeLa cells
- Human recombinant protein
- PC12 cells