7,8-dihydroxyflavone, a small-molecule TrkB agonist, reverses memory deficits and BACE1 elevation in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jan;37(2):434-44. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.191. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Increasing evidence suggests that reductions in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) may have a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the efficacy and safety profile of BDNF therapy (eg, gene delivery) remains to be established toward clinical trials. Here, we evaluated the effects of 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (7,8-DHF), a recently identified small-molecule TrkB agonist that can pass the blood-brain barrier, in the 5XFAD transgenic mouse model of AD. 5XFAD mice at 12-15 months of age and non-transgenic littermate controls received systemic administration of 7,8-DHF (5 mg/kg, i.p.) once daily for 10 consecutive days. We found that 7,8-DHF rescued memory deficits of 5XFAD mice in the spontaneous alternation Y-maze task. 5XFAD mice showed impairments in the hippocampal BDNF-TrkB pathway, as evidenced by significant reductions in BDNF, TrkB receptors, and phosphorylated TrkB. 7,8-DHF restored deficient TrkB signaling in 5XFAD mice without affecting endogenous BDNF levels. Meanwhile, 5XFAD mice exhibited elevations in the β-secretase enzyme (BACE1) that initiates amyloid-β (Aβ) generation, as observed in sporadic AD. Interestingly, 7,8-DHF blocked BACE1 elevations and lowered levels of the β-secretase-cleaved C-terminal fragment of amyloid precursor protein (C99), Aβ40, and Aβ42 in 5XFAD mouse brains. Furthermore, BACE1 expression was decreased by 7,8-DHF in wild-type mice, suggesting that BDNF-TrkB signaling is also important for downregulating baseline levels of BACE1. Together, our findings indicate that TrkB activation with systemic 7,8-DHF can ameliorate AD-associated memory deficits, which may be, at least in part, attributable to reductions in BACE1 expression and β-amyloidogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Flavones / pharmacology
  • Flavones / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory Disorders / complications
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Memory Disorders / genetics
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor, trkB / agonists*
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • 6,7-dihydroxyflavone
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Flavones
  • Peptide Fragments
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-40)
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • Bace1 protein, mouse