TrkB Signaling in Dorsal Raphe Nucleus is Essential for Antidepressant Efficacy and Normal Aggression Behavior

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Mar;42(4):886-894. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.201. Epub 2016 Sep 16.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its high affinity receptor, tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), have important roles in neural plasticity and are required for antidepressant efficacy. Studies examining the role of BDNF-TrkB signaling in depression and antidepressant efficacy have largely focused on the limbic system, leaving it unclear whether this signaling is important in other brain regions. BDNF and TrkB are both highly expressed in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), a brain region that has been suggested to have a role in depression and antidepressant action, although it is unknown whether BDNF and TrkB in the dorsal raphe nucleus are involved in these processes. We combined the adeno-associated virus (AAV) with the Cre-loxP site-specific recombination system to selectively knock down either Bdnf or TrkB in the DRN. These mice were then characterized in several behavioral paradigms including measures of depression-related behavior and antidepressant efficacy. We show that knockdown of TrkB, but not Bdnf, in the DRN results in loss of antidepressant efficacy and increased aggression-related behavior. We also show that knockdown of TrkB or Bdnf in this brain region does not have an impact on weight, activity levels, anxiety, or depression-related behaviors. These data reveal a critical role for TrkB signaling in the DRN in mediating antidepressant responses and normal aggression behavior. The results also suggest a non-cell autonomous role for BDNF in the DRN in mediating antidepressant efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / deficiency
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus / drug effects
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Receptor, trkB / deficiency
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptor, trkB