Gender and environmental effects on regional brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression after experimental traumatic brain injury

Neuroscience. 2005;135(1):11-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.05.041.


Alterations in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression have been reported in multiple brain regions acutely after traumatic brain injury, however neither injury nor post-injury environmental enrichment has been shown to affect hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene expression in male rats chronically post-injury. Studies have demonstrated hormone-related neuroprotection for female rats after traumatic brain injury, and estrogen and exercise both influence brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels. Despite recent studies suggesting that exposure post-traumatic brain injury to environmental enrichment improves cognitive recovery in male rats, we have shown that environmental enrichment mediated improvements with spatial learning are gender specific and only positively affect males. Therefore the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of gender and environmental enrichment on chronic post-injury cortical and hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein expression. Sprague-Dawley male and cycling female rats were placed into environmental enrichment or standard housing after controlled cortical impact or sham surgery. Four weeks post-surgery, hippocampal and frontal cortex brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression were examined using Western blot. Results revealed significant increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in the frontal cortex ipsilateral to injury for males (P=0.03). Environmental enrichment did not augment this effect. Neither environmental enrichment nor injury significantly affected cortical brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression for females. In the hippocampus ipsilateral to injury brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression for both males and females was half (49% and 51% respectively) of that observed in shams housed in the standard environment. For injured males, there was a trend in this region for environmental enrichment to restore brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels to sham values. However, there were robust increases in hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression ipsilateral to the injury for injured females in environmental enrichment compared with both sham and injured females placed in standard housing (P<or=0.005). In the hippocampus contralateral to injury, there were also significant injury-related increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression for females (P<or=0.05) that were not further augmented by environmental enrichment. These results show significant, region-specific gender differences in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression with both injury and environmental enrichment that may be important for recovery. However, these data do not support a critical role for brain-derived neurotrophic factor in environmental enrichment mediated improvements with spatial learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Actins
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor