Tropomyosin receptor kinase B (Trk-B) belongs to the second largest family of membrane receptors, Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTKs). Trk-B is known to interact with three different neurotrophins: Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), Neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), and Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3). All three neurotrophins are involved in survival and proliferation of neuronal cells, but each induces distinct signaling through Trk-B. We hypothesize that the different biological effects correlate with differences in the interactions between the Trk-B receptors, when bound to different ligands, in the plasma membrane. To test this hypothesis, we use quantitative FRET to characterize Trk-B dimerization in response to NT-3 and NT-4 in live cells, and compare it to the previously published data for Trk-B in the absence and presence of BDNF. Our study reveals that the distinct Trk-B signaling outcomes are underpinned by both different configurations and different stabilities of the three ligand-bound Trk-B dimers in the plasma membrane.

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