Bdnf gene is a downstream target of Nurr1 transcription factor in rat midbrain neurons in vitro

J Neurochem. 2007 Jul;102(2):441-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.04494.x. Epub 2007 May 15.


The transcription factor Nurr1 is essential for the generation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons (mDA). Only a few Nurr1-regulated genes have so far been identified and it remains unclear how Nurr1 influences the development and function of dopaminergic neurons. To identify novel Nurr1 target genes we have used genome-wide expression profiling in rat midbrain primary cultures, enriched in dopaminergic neurons, following up-regulation of Nurr1 expression by depolarization. In this study we demonstrate that following depolarization the hyperexpression of Nurr1 and the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are phospholipase C- and protein kinase C-dependent. We show that Bdnf, which encodes a neurotrophin involved also in the phenotypic maturation of mDA neurons, is a novel Nurr1 target gene. By RNA interference experiments we show that a decreased Nurr1 expression is followed by tyrosine hydroxylase and BDNF mRNA and protein down-regulation. Reporter gene assay experiments performed on midbrain primary cultures using four Bdnf promoter constructs show that Bdnf is a direct target gene of Nurr1. Taken together, our findings suggest that Nurr1 might also influence the development and the function of midbrain dopaminergic neurons via direct regulation of Bdnf expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / genetics
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Mesencephalon / embryology
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 2
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Substantia Nigra / embryology
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / embryology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nr4a2 protein, rat
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Type C Phospholipases
  • Dopamine