Low-level laser therapy rescues dendrite atrophy via upregulating BDNF expression: implications for Alzheimer's disease

J Neurosci. 2013 Aug 14;33(33):13505-17. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0918-13.2013.


Downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus occurs early in the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Since BDNF plays a critical role in neuronal survival and dendrite growth, BDNF upregulation may contribute to rescue dendrite atrophy and cell loss in AD. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has been demonstrated to regulate neuronal function both in vitro and in vivo. In the present study, we found that LLLT rescued neurons loss and dendritic atrophy via upregulation of BDNF in both Aβ-treated hippocampal neurons and cultured APP/PS1 mouse hippocampal neurons. Photoactivation of transcription factor CRE-binding protein (CREB) increased both BDNF mRNA and protein expression, since knockdown CREB blocked the effects of LLLT. Furthermore, CREB-regulated transcription was in an ERK-dependent manner. Inhibition of ERK attenuated the DNA-binding efficiency of CREB to BDNF promoter. In addition, dendrite growth was improved after LLLT, characterized by upregulation of Rac1 activity and PSD-95 expression, and the increase in length, branching, and spine density of dendrites in hippocampal neurons. Together, these studies suggest that upregulation of BDNF with LLLT by activation of ERK/CREB pathway can ameliorate Aβ-induced neurons loss and dendritic atrophy, thus identifying a novel pathway by which LLLT protects against Aβ-induced neurotoxicity. Our research may provide a feasible therapeutic approach to control the progression of AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dendrites / radiation effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Up-Regulation


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor