Peripheral BDNF produces antidepressant-like effects in cellular and behavioral models

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010 Nov;35(12):2378-91. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.114. Epub 2010 Aug 4.


Recent clinical studies demonstrate that serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are significantly decreased in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and that antidepressant treatments reverse this effect, indicating that serum BDNF is a biomarker of MDD. These findings raise the possibility that serum BDNF may also have effects on neuronal activity and behavior, but the functional significance of altered serum BDNF is unknown. To address this issue, we determined the influence of peripheral BDNF administration on depression- and anxiety-like behavior, including the forced swim test (FST), chronic unpredictable stress (CUS)/anhedonia, novelty-induced hypophagia (NIH) test, and elevated-plus maze (EPM). Furthermore, we examined adult hippocampal neurogenesis as well as hippocampal and striatal expression of BDNF, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), in order to determine whether peripherally administered BDNF produces antidepressant-like cellular responses in the brain. Peripheral BDNF administration increased mobility in the FST, attenuated the effects of CUS on sucrose consumption, decreased latency in the NIH test, and increased time spent in the open arms of an EPM. Moreover, adult hippocampal neurogenesis was increased after chronic, peripheral BDNF administration. We also found that BDNF levels as well as expression of pCREB and pERK were elevated in the hippocampus of adult mice receiving peripheral BDNF. Taken together, these results indicate that peripheral/serum BDNF may not only represent a biomarker of MDD, but also have functional consequences on molecular signaling substrates, neurogenesis, and behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents / metabolism
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / administration & dosage
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / pharmacology*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / therapeutic use*
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Infusions, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases