Rapid Modulation of Protein Expression in the Rat Hippocampus Following Deep Brain Stimulation of the Fornix

Brain Stimul. Nov-Dec 2015;8(6):1058-64. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2015.07.044. Epub 2015 Aug 6.


Background: The forniceal area is currently being evaluated as a target for deep brain stimulation (DBS) to improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The molecular changes at downstream targets within the stimulated circuit are unknown.

Objective: To analyze the modulation of hippocampal protein expression following 1 h of fornix DBS in the rat.

Methods: Animals underwent bilateral forniceal DBS for 1 h and sacrificed at different time-points after the initiation of the stimulation (1 h, 2.5 h, 5 h, 25 h). Bilateral hippocampi were isolated for western blot analyses.

Results: Forniceal DBS led to a dramatic elevation of cFos post-stimulation, suggesting that forniceal DBS activates the hippocampus. There was also a significant increase in candidate proteins including several trophic factors, such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) but not glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). There was in addition, increased expression of the synaptic markers growth associated protein 43 (GAP-43), synaptophysin and α-synuclein. No changes were observed at the studied time-points in Alzheimer's-related proteins including amyloid precursor protein (APP), tau, phosphorylated tau (ptau), or selected chaperone proteins (HSP40, HSP70 and CHIP).

Conclusions: Forniceal DBS triggers hippocampal activity and rapidly modulate the expression of neurotrophic factors and markers of synaptic plasticity known to play key roles in memory processing. The clinical effects of DBS of the fornix may, in part, be mediated by producing changes in the expression of these proteins.

Keywords: Deep brain stimulation; Fornix; Hippocampus; Neurotrophic factors; Synaptic plasticity; cFos.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Fornix, Brain / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Nerve Growth Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / biosynthesis


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A