Background: Nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin 3 (NT-3), and neurotrophin 4/5 (NT-4/5) are members of the neurotrophin gene family that support the survival of specific neuronal populations, including those that are affected by neurodegeneration in Alzheimer disease (AD).
Objective: To determine whether neurotrophin protein levels are altered in the AD-affected brain compared with control brains.
Methods: We quantitated protein levels of NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4/5, and calculated neurotrophin/NT-3 ratios in AD-affected postmortem hippocampus, frontal and parietal cortex, and cerebellum, and compared them with age-matched control tissue (patients with AD/controls: hippocampus, 9/9 cases; frontal cortex, 19/9; parietal cortex, 8/5; and cerebellum, 5/7, respectively). We applied highly sensitive and specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays in rapid-autopsy-derived brain tissue (mean+/-SD postmortem interval, 2. 57+/-1.75 h, n=71) to minimize postmortem proteolytic activity.
Results: Levels of BDNF were significantly reduced in hippocampus and parietal cortex (P<.001, and P<.01) as well as BDNF/NT-3 ratios in frontal and parietal cortices (P<.05, and P<.01) in the group with AD compared with the control group. Levels of NGF and NGF/NT-3 ratio were significantly elevated in the group with AD compared with the control group in the hippocampus and frontal cortex (P<.001). Levels of NT-4/5 and the NT-4/NT-3 ratio were slightly reduced in hippocampus and cerebellum in the group with AD compared with the control group (P<.05). In contrast, the levels of NT-3 were unchanged in all brain regions investigated.
Conclusion: Decreased levels of BDNF may constitute a lack of trophic support and, thus, may contribute to the degeneration of specific neuronal populations in the AD-affected brain, including the basal forebrain cholinergic system. Arch Neurol. 2000.