The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has emerged as a major regulator of activity-dependent plasticity at excitatory synapses in the mammalian central nervous system. In particular, much attention has been given to the role of the neurotrophin in the regulation of hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), a sustained enhancement of excitatory synaptic strength believed to underlie learning and memory processes. In this review we summarize the evidence pointing to a role for BDNF in generating functional and structural changes at synapses required for both early- and late phases of LTP in the hippocampus. The available information regarding the pre- and/or postsynaptic release of BDNF and action of the neurotrophin during LTP will be also reviewed. Finally, we discuss the effects of BDNF on the synaptic proteome, either by acting on the protein synthesis machinery and/or by regulating protein degradation by calpains and possibly by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). This fine-tuned control of the synaptic proteome rather than a simple upregulation of the protein synthesis may play a key role in BDNF-mediated synaptic potentiation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Brain and Memory.
Keywords: BDNF; Long-term potentiation (LTP); Neurotrophins; Synaptic plasticity; Translation; Ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS).
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