Neurotrophins (NTs) belong to a family of growth factors, which control the development, maintenance, and apoptotic death of neurons and also fulfill multiple regulatory functions outside the nervous system. Biological effects induced by NTs strongly depend on the pattern of NT receptor/co-receptors expression in target cells, as well as on the set of intracellular adaptor molecules that link NT signalling to distinct biochemical pathways. In this review, we summarize data on the molecular mechanisms underlying the involvement of NTs in the control of non-neuronal functions in normal skin (e.g. keratinocyte proliferation, melanocyte development and apoptosis, hair growth). We also review the data on the role for NTs and their receptors in a number of pathological skin conditions (stress-induced hair loss, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis). Although additional efforts are required to fully understand mechanisms underlying the involvement of NTs and their receptors in controlling functions of normal and pathologically altered skin cells, substantial evidence suggests that modulation of NT signalling by NTs receptor agonists/antagonists may be developed as intervention modalities in distinct skin and hair growth pathologies.
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