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BDN F Down-regulates Neurotrophin Responsiveness, TrkB Protein and TrkB mRNA Levels in Cultured Rat Hippocampal Neurons


John S. Rudge


Regulation of Trk receptors by their ligands, the neurotrophins, was investigated in dissociated cultures of embryonic day 18 rat hippocampal neurons. Cultures were exposed to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) or NT-4/5 for 24 h upon plating followed by factor washout. As determined by immunohistochemical staining and phosphotyrosine blotting, the functional responses to acute stimulation with BDNF, NT-3 and NT-4/5, including c-Fos induction and phosphorylation of Trk and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) proteins, were significantly decreased after 6 days in culture by prior exposure to BDNF. As determined by Western and Northern blot analysis respectively, there was a parallel down-regulation of TrkB protein as well as of trkB and trkC mRNA levels in BDNF-pretreated cultures. Exposure to NT-3 or NT-4/5 at the same concentrations as BDNF did not down-regulate any of the measured cellular responses or TrkB protein and/or trkB and trkC mRNA levels. Regulation of hippocampal neuronal TrkB protein does not appear to be just a developmental phenomenon, as infusion of BDNF into the hippocampus of adult rats for 6 days produced an 80% decrease in levels of full-length TrkB protein. We thus show that exposure of hippocampal neurons to BDNF, both in culture and in the adult brain, results in down-regulation of TrkB. At least in vitro, this leads to long-term functional desensitization to BDNF. NT-3 and NT-4/5. as well as down-regulation of trkB and trkC mRNA.