Effects of early visual experience and diurnal rhythms on BDNF mRNA and protein levels in the visual system, hippocampus, and cerebellum

J Neurosci. 2001 Jun 1;21(11):3923-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.21-11-03923.2001.


The expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA and the secretion of BDNF protein are tightly regulated by neuronal activity. Thus, BDNF has been proposed as a mediator of activity-dependent neural plasticity. Previous studies showed that dark rearing (DR) reduces BDNF mRNA levels in the primary visual cortex (V1), but the effects of visual experience on BDNF protein levels are unknown. We report that rearing in constant light or DR alters BDNF mRNA and protein levels in the retina, superior colliculus (SC), V1, hippocampus (HIPP), and cerebellum (CBL), although the changes in mRNA and protein are not always correlated. Most notably, DR increases BDNF protein levels in V1 although BDNF mRNA is decreased. BDNF protein levels also undergo diurnal changes. In the retina, V1, and SC, BDNF protein levels are higher during the light phase of the circadian cycle than during the dark phase. By contrast, in HIPP and CBL, the tissue concentration of BDNF protein is higher during the dark phase. The discrepancies between the experience-dependent changes in BDNF mRNA and protein suggest that via its effects on neuronal activity, early sensory experience alters the trafficking, as well as the synthesis, of BDNF protein. The circadian changes in BDNF protein suggest that BDNF could cause the diurnal modulation of synaptic efficacy in some neural circuits. The fluctuations in BDNF levels in nonvisual structures suggest a potential role of BDNF in mediating plasticity induced by hormones or motor activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cerebellum / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Darkness
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Light
  • Mesocricetus
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Superior Colliculi / metabolism
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism
  • Visual Pathways / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • RNA, Messenger