Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) enhances synaptic plasticity and neuron function. We have reported that voluntary exercise increases BDNF mRNA levels in the hippocampus; however, mechanisms underlying this regulation have not been defined. We hypothesized that medial septal cholinergic and/or gamma amino butyric acid (GABA)ergic neurons, which provide a major input to the hippocampus, may regulate the baseline gene expression and exercise-dependent gene upregulation of this neurotrophin. Focal lesions were produced by medial septal infusion of the saporin-linked immunotoxins 192-IgG-saporin or OX7-saporin. 192-IgG-saporin produced a selective and complete loss of medial septal cholinergic neurons with no accompanying GABA loss. Baseline BDNF mRNA was reduced in the hippocampus of sedentary animals, but exercise-induced gene upregulation was not impaired, despite complete loss of septo-hippocampal cholinergic afferents. OX7-saporin produced a graded lesion of the medial septum characterized by predominant GABA neuron loss with less reduction in the number of cholinergic cells. OX7-saporin lesion reduced baseline hippocampal BDNF mRNA and attenuated exercise-induced gene upregulation, in a dose-dependent manner. These results suggest that combined loss of septal GABAergic and cholinergic input to the hippocampus may be important for exercise-dependent BDNF gene regulation, while cholinergic activity on its own is not sufficient. These results are discussed in relation to their implications for aging and Alzheimer's disease.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.