Neudesin (also known as neuron derived neurotrophic factor, Nenf) is a scarcely studied putative non-canonical neurotrophic factor. In order to understand its function in the brain, we performed an extensive behavioral characterization (motor, emotional, and cognitive dimensions) of neudesin-null mice. The absence of neudesin leads to an anxious-like behavior as assessed in the elevated plus maze (EPM), light/dark box (LDB) and novelty suppressed feeding (NSF) tests, but not in the acoustic startle (AS) test. This anxious phenotype is associated with reduced dopaminergic input and impoverished dendritic arborizations in the dentate gyrus granule neurons of the ventral hippocampus. Interestingly, shorter dendrites are also observed in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) of neudesin-null mice. These findings lead us to suggest that neudesin is a novel relevant player in the maintenance of the anxiety circuitry.
Keywords: anxiety; bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; dopamine; neudesin; ventral hippocampus.