A single bout of exercise increases hippocampal Bdnf: influence of chronic exercise and noradrenaline

Genes Brain Behav. 2017 Nov;16(8):800-811. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12394. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


Research in human subjects suggests that acute exercise can improve memory performance, but the qualities of the exercise necessary to promote improved memory, and the signaling pathways that mediate these effects are unknown. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf), noradrenergic signaling, and post-translational modifications to AMPA receptors have all been implicated in the enhancement of memory following emotional or physical arousal; however, it is not known if a single bout of exercise is sufficient to engage these pathways. Here we use a rodent model to investigate the effects of acute and chronic exercise on hippocampal transcript-specific Bdnf expression and phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit of the AMPA-type glutamate receptor. A single bout of treadmill exercise was insufficient to mimic the increased expression of GluR1 protein and phosphorylation at Ser845 observed following 1 month of voluntary wheel running. However, acute exercise was sufficient to increase Bdnf transcript IV messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in sedentary subjects, but not subjects housed for 1 month with a running wheel. High-intensity acute exercise increased total Bdnf mRNA in sedentary mice, but not above levels observed following chronic access to the running wheel. Although depletion of central noradrenergic signaling with DSP-4 reduced Bdnf IV mRNA, the effect of acute exercise on Bdnf mRNA persisted. Our characterization of the effects of acute exercise on Bdnf expression and persistence in the absence of noradrenergic modulation may inform strategies to employ physical activity to combat cognitive aging and mental health disorders.

Keywords: AMPA receptors; Acute exercise; Bdnf; DSP-4; GluR1; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; exercise; hippocampus; norepinephrine; voluntary wheel running.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Receptors, AMPA / genetics
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • glutamate receptor ionotropic, AMPA 1
  • Norepinephrine