Increased neurogenesis and the ectopic granule cells after intrahippocampal BDNF infusion in adult rats

Exp Neurol. 2005 Apr;192(2):348-56. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2004.11.016.


There is evidence that BDNF influences the birth of granule cells in the dentate gyrus, which is one of the few areas of the brain that demonstrates neurogenesis throughout life. However, studies to date have not examined this issue directly. To do so, we compared the effects of BDNF, phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), or bovine serum albumin (BSA) on neurogenesis after infusion into the hippocampus of the normal adult rat, using osmotic pumps that were implanted unilaterally in the dorsal hilus. BDNF, PBS, and BSA were infused for 2 weeks. The mitotic marker bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was administered twice daily during the 2-week infusion period. At least 1 month after infusion ended, brains were processed immunocytochemically using antibodies to BrdU, a neuronal nuclear protein (NeuN), or calbindin D28K (CaBP), which labels mature granule cells. Stereology was used to quantify BrdU-labeled cells in the dorsal hippocampus that were double-labeled with NeuN or CaBP. There was a statistically significant increase in BrdU(+)/NeuN(+) double-labeled cells in the granule cell layer after BDNF infusion relative to controls. The values for BrdU(+)/NeuN(+) cells were similar to BrdU(+)/CaBP(+) cells, indicating that most new neurons were likely to be granule cells. In addition, BrdU(+)/NeuN(+)-labeled cells developed in the hilar region after BDNF infusion, which have previously only been identified after severe continuous seizures (status epilepticus) and associated pathological changes. Remarkably, neurogenesis was also increased contralaterally, but BDNF did not appear to spread to the opposite hemisphere. Thus, infusion of BDNF to a local area can have widespread effects on hippocampal neurogenesis. The results demonstrate that BDNF administration to the dentate gyrus leads to increased neurogenesis of granule cells. They also show that ectopic granule cells develop after BDNF infusion, which suggests that ectopic migration is not necessarily confined to pathological conditions. These results are discussed in light of the evidence that BDNF increases neuronal activity in hippocampus. Thus, the mechanisms underlying neurogenesis following BDNF infusion could be due to altered activity as well as direct effects of BDNF itself, and this is relevant to studies of other growth factors because many of them have effects on neuronal excitability that are often not considered.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / adverse effects
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / pharmacology*
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Infusion Pumps
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • S100 Proteins / metabolism
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • S100 Proteins
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase
  • Bromodeoxyuridine