Background: The antidepressant-like effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) infusions in brain, and the upregulation of BDNF mRNA and its receptor in rats exposed to electroconvulsive seizure (ECS) and antidepressants, suggested a role for increased BDNF protein.
Methods: We measured BDNF protein levels with a two-site enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in six brain regions of adult male rats that received daily ECS or daily injections of antidepressant drugs.
Results: The BDNF ELISA method was validated by the 50% loss of BDNF protein in the brains of +/- BDNF knockout mice, the 60%-100% recovery of spiked recombinant BDNF, and by the amounts and regional variations of BDNF measured in the six brain regions. Ten consecutive daily exposures to ECS increased BDNF protein in the parietal cortex (219%), entorhinal cortex (153%), hippocampus (132%), frontal cortex (94%), neostriatum (67%), and septum (29%). BDNF increased gradually in the hippocampus and frontal cortex, with a peak response by the fourth day of ECS. Increases peaked at 15 hours after the last ECS and lasted at least 3 days thereafter. Two weeks of daily injections with the monoamine (MAO)-A and -B inhibitor tranylcypromine (8-10 mg/kg, IP) increased BDNF by 15% in the frontal cortex, and 3 weeks treatment increased it by 18% in the frontal cortex and by 29% in the neostriatum. Tranylcypromine, fluoxetine, and desmethylimipramine did not elevate BDNF in the hippocampus.
Conclusions: Elevations in BDNF protein in brain are consistent with the greater treatment efficacy of ECS and MAO inhibitors in drug-resistant major depressive disorder and may be predictive for the antidepressant action of the more highly efficacious interventions.