Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Patrick Zweidler McKay, MD/PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Peter Zage, MD/PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Jack Waymire, PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Bean, PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Gary Gallick, PhD


Delineating the mechanism(s) of BDNF/TrkB mediated proliferation in Neuroblastoma

Timothy Christopher Graham, B.S.

Supervisory Professor: Patrick Zweidler-McKay, MD/PhD

Neuroblastoma is the most common extra-cranial solid tumor in children, arising from neural crest precursor cells. The neurotrophin receptors (TrkA/B/C) have been implicated as important prognostic markers, linking the biology of the tumor to patient outcome. High expression of TrkA and TrkC receptors have been linked to favorable biological features and high patient survival, while TrkB is expressed in unfavorable, aggressive tumors. Several studies suggest that high levels and activation of TrkB by its ligand brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stimulates tumor cell survival, proliferation, and chemoresistance. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that regulate proliferation. The TrkB signaling pathway in neuroblastoma cells has been difficult to evaluate due to the loss of TrkB expression when the cells are used in vitro. Here we determined the role of proximal signaling pathways downstream of TrkB on neuroblastoma proliferation. By analyzing a panel of neuroblastoma cell lines, we found that the SMS-KCN cells express detectable levels of protein and mRNA levels of TrkB as analyzed by western, RT-PCR, and surface expression by flow cytometry. By the addition of exogenous human recombinant BDNF, we showed that activation of TrkB is important in the proliferation of the cells and can be repressed by inhibiting TrkB kinase function. By BDNF stimulation and use of specific kinase inhibitors, the common pathways involving PLCg, PI3K/AKT, and MAPK were initially investigated in addition to PI3K/MTOR and FYN pathways. We demonstrate for the first time that Fyn plays a critical role in TrkB mediated proliferation in neuroblastoma. Constitutively active and over-expressed Fyn reduced neuroblastoma proliferation, as measured by PCNA expression. Knockdown of Fyn by shRNA was shown to cooperate with activated TrkB for an enhanced proliferative response. Although TrkB activation has been implicated in the proliferation of neuroblastoma cells, little is known about its effects on cell cycle regulation. Protein levels of pRB, CDK2, CDK4, CDC25A, cyclin D1, and cyclin E were analyzed following BDNF stimulation. We found that BDNF mediated activation of TrkB induces multiple common proximal signaling pathways including the anti-proliferative Fyn pathway and drives cell cycle machinery to enhance the proliferation of neuroblastoma cells.


neuroblastoma, TrkB, Fyn, proliferation