Growth factor withdrawal has been studied across different species and has been shown to have dramatic consequences on cell survival. In the nervous system, withdrawal of nerve growth factor (NGF) from sympathetic and sensory neurons results in substantial neuronal cell death, signifying a requirement for NGF for the survival of neurons in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). In contrast to the PNS, withdrawal of central nervous system (CNS) enriched brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has little effect on cell survival but is indispensible for synaptic plasticity. Given that most early events in neuropsychiatric disorders are marked by a loss of synapses, lack of BDNF may thus be an important part of a cascade of events that leads to neuronal degeneration. Here we review reports on the effects of BDNF withdrawal on CNS neurons and discuss the relevance of the loss in disease.
Keywords: BDNF; Neuronal degeneration; Neuropsychiatric disorders; Synapse loss; Synaptic plasticity.
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