The neurotrophin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is recognized as a key component in the regulation of CNS ontogeny, homeostasis and adult neuroplasticity. The importance of BDNF in CNS development and function is well documented by numerous reports from animal studies linking abnormal BDNF signaling to metabolic disturbances and anxiety or depressive-like behavior. Despite the diverse roles for BDNF in nearly all aspects of CNS physiology, the regulation of BDNF expression, as well as our understanding of the signaling mechanisms associated with this neurotrophin, remains incomplete. However, links between sex hormones such as estradiol and testosterone, as well as endogenous and synthetic glucocorticoids (GCs), have emerged as important mediators of BDNF expression and function. Examples of such regulation include brain region-specific induction of Bdnf mRNA in response to estradiol. Additional studies have also documented regulation of the expression of the high-affinity BDNF receptor Tropomyosin-Related Kinase B by estradiol, thus implicating sex steroids not only in the regulation of BDNF expression, but also in mechanisms of signaling associated with it. In addition to gonadal steroids, further evidence also suggests functional interaction between BDNF and GCs, such as in the regulation of corticotrophin-releasing hormone and other important neuropeptides. In this review, we provide an overview of the roles played by selected sex or stress hormones in the regulation of BDNF expression and signaling in the CNS.
Copyright © 2012 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.