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Corticosterone Actions on the Hippocampal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression are Mediated by Exon IV Promoter


Dr Anita C. Hansson, NIAAA, NIH, Building 10, CRC, Room 1-5330 (East), 10 Center Drive MSC 1108, Bethesda, MD 20892-1108, USA (e-mail:


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression is strongly regulated by adrenocorticosteroids via activated gluco- and mineralocorticoid receptors. Four separate promoters are located upstream of the BDNF noncoding exons I to IV and may thus be involved in adrenocorticosteroid-mediated gene regulation. In adrenalectomised rats, corticosterone (10 mg/kg s.c.) induces a robust down-regulation of both BDNF mRNA and protein levels in the hippocampus peaking at 2–8 h. To study the role of the individual promoters in the corticosterone response, we employed exon-specific riboprobe in situ hybridisation as well as real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the dentate gyrus. We found a down-regulation, mainly of exon IV and the protein-coding exon V, in nearby all hippocampal subregions, but exon II was only down-regulated in the dentate gyrus. Exon I and exon III transcripts were not affected by corticosterone treatment. The results could be confirmed with real-time PCR in the dentate gyrus. It appears as if the exon IV promoter is the major target for corticosterone-mediated transcriptional regulation of BDNF in the hippocampus.