BDNF and the diseased nervous system: a delicate balance between adaptive and pathological processes of gene regulation

J Neurochem. 2008 Apr;105(1):1-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05237.x. Epub 2008 Jan 18.


It is clear that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a crucial role in organizing the response of the genome to dynamic changes in the extracellular environment that enable brain plasticity. BDNF has emerged as one of the most important signaling molecules for the developing nervous system as well as the impaired nervous system, and multiple diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, epilepsy, Rett's syndrome, and psychiatric depression, are linked by their association with potential dysregulation of BDNF-driven signal transduction programs. These programs are responsible for controlling the amount of activated transcription factors, such as cAMP response element binding protein, that coordinate the expression of multiple brain proteins, like ion channels and early growth response factors, whose job is to maintain the balance of excitation and inhibition in the nervous system. In this review, we will explore the evidence for BDNF's role in gene regulation side by side with its potential role in the etiology of neurological diseases. It is hoped that by bringing the datasets together in these diverse fields we can help develop the foundation for future studies aimed at understanding basic principles of gene regulation in the nervous system and how they can be harnessed to develop new therapeutic opportunities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases* / genetics
  • Nervous System Diseases* / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases* / pathology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor