Brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes central nervous system myelination via a direct effect upon oligodendrocytes

Neurosignals. 2010;18(3):186-202. doi: 10.1159/000323170. Epub 2011 Jan 18.


The extracellular factors that are responsible for inducing myelination in the central nervous system (CNS) remain elusive. We investigated whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is implicated, by first confirming that BDNF heterozygous mice exhibit delayed CNS myelination during early postnatal development. We next established that the influence of BDNF upon myelination was direct, by acting on oligodendrocytes, using co-cultures of dorsal root ganglia neurons and oligodendrocyte precursor cells. Importantly, we found that BDNF retains its capacity to enhance myelination of neurons or by oligodendrocytes derived from p75NTR knockout mice, indicating the expression of p75NTR is not necessary for BDNF-induced myelination. Conversely, we observed that phosphorylation of TrkB correlated with myelination, and that inhibiting TrkB signalling also inhibited the promyelinating effect of BDNF, suggesting that BDNF enhances CNS myelination via activating oligodendroglial TrkB-FL receptors. Together, our data reveal a previously unknown role for BDNF in potentiating the normal development of CNS myelination, via signalling within oligodendrocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / deficiency
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myelin Sheath / genetics
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor