Neurotrophin-3 regulates mast cell functions in neonatal mouse skin

Martin Metz, Vladimir A. Botchkarev, Natalia V. Botchkareva, Pia Welker, Desmond J. Tobin, Jürgen Knop, Marcus Maurer, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Nerve growth factor (NGF) has long been recognized as an important mast cell (MC) growth factor. To explore whether other neurotrophins (NTs) of the NGF family, which are widely expressed in mouse skin, affect the numbers and/or functions of MCs we examined the effects of NT-3 on neonatal skin MCs. We demonstrate that TrkC, the high affinity NT-3 receptor, is expressed by virtually all neonatal skin MCs in C57BL/6 mice, which indicates that MCs can respond to NT-3. Skin of neonatal and early postnatal NT-3-overexpressing mice (promoter: K14) displayed significantly and up to twofold increased numbers of MCs during the first 20 days after birth, as compared to wild-type mice. To check whether this increase in MC numbers in NT-3 transgenic mice reflects a higher rate of proliferation, we performed immunohistochemistry, which revealed that only 1-2% of all skin MCs both in NT-3-overexpressing and in wild-type controls showed Ki-67-positive nuclei, suggesting that the observed differences in the number of MCs do not reflect a higher rate of MC proliferation. Additionally, we show that the effect of NT-3 on the number of MCs is most likely to be stem cell factor (SCF)-independent, because NT-3 significantly downregulates secretion of SCF-protein in cultured dermal fibroblasts, as assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Numbers of skin MCs in neonatal TrkC-deficient mice were found to be modestly reduced, as compared to wild-type mice, indicating that NT-3 can modulate the number of MCs directly via TrkC, although TrkC does not seem to be essential for the number of basal MCs. To further analyze the effects of NT-3 on MCs, we stimulated skin organ culture of early postnatal C57BL/6 mouse skin with 5-50 ng/ml NT-3, which induced a significant increase in MC degranulation, as visualized by Giemsa staining. However, stimulation of isolated neonatal dermal skin MCs with NT-3 in vitro failed to result in MC activation, as measured by serotonin release. Our data suggest a role for NT-3 in the maturation of MCs, such as a TrkC-mediated stimulation of the differentiation of pre-existing, less mature MCs and/or by enhancing the migration of circulating MC precursors into the skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-281
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Mast cell
  • NGF
  • NT-3
  • Serotonin
  • TrkC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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