The importance of neuronal growth factors in the ovary

S. Streiter, B. Fisch, B. Sabbah, A. Ao, R. Abir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The neurotrophin family consists of nerve growth factor (NGF), neurotrophin 3 (NT3) and neurotrophin 4/5 (NT4/5), in addition to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the neuronal growth factors, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and vasointestinal peptide (VIP). Although there are a few literature reviews, mainly of animal studies, on the importance of neurotrophins in the ovary, we aimed to provide a complete review of neurotrophins as well as neuronal growth factors and their important roles in normal and pathological processes in the ovary. Follicular assembly is probably stimulated by complementary effects of NGF, NT4/5 and BDNF and their receptors. The neurotrophins, GDNF and VIP and their receptors have all been identified in preantral and antral follicles of mammalian species, including humans. Transgenic mice with mutations in the genes encoding for Ngf, Nt4/5 and Bdnf and their tropomyosin-related kinase b receptor showed a reduction in preantral follicles and an abnormal ovarian morphology, whereasNGF, NT3,GDNFand VIP increased the in vitro activation of primordial follicles in rats and goats. Additionally,NGF,NT3andGDNFpromoted follicular cell proliferation;NGF,BDNFand VIPwere shown to be involved in ovulation; VIP inhibited follicular apoptosis; NT4/5, BDNF and GDNF promoted oocyte maturation and NGF, NT3 and VIP stimulated steroidogenesis. NGF may also exert a stimulatory effect in ovarian cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Low levels of NGF and BDNF in follicular fluid may be associated with diminished ovarian reserve and high levels with endometriosis. More knowledge of the roles of neuronal growth factors in the ovary has important implications for the development of new therapeutic drugs (such as anti-NGF agents) for ovarian cancer and PCOS as well as various infertility problems, warranting further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergav057
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 May 2015


  • GDNF
  • Neuronal growth factor receptors
  • Neurotrophins
  • Ovary
  • VIP


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