Prefrontal cortical parvalbumin and somatostatin expression and cell density increase during adolescence and are modified by BDNF and sex

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2018 Apr;88:177-188. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Feb 3.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is known to play a critical role early in the development of cortical GABAergic interneurons. Recently our laboratory and others have shown protracted development of specific subpopulations of GABAergic interneurons extending into adolescence. BDNF expression also changes significantly across adolescent development. However the role of BDNF in regulating GABAergic changes across adolescence remains unclear. Here, we performed a week-by-week analysis of the protein expression and cell density of three major GABAergic interneurons, parvalbumin (PV), somatostatin (SST) and calretinin (Cal) in the medial prefrontal cortex from prepubescence (week 3) to adulthood (week 12). In order to assess how BDNF and sex might influence the adolescent trajectory of GABAergic interneurons we compared WT as well as BDNF heterozygous (+/-) male and female mice. In both males and females PV expression increases during adolescent development in the mPFC. Compared to wild-types, PV expression was reduced in male but not female BDNF+/- mice throughout adolescent development. This reduction in protein expression corresponded with reduced cell density, specifically within the infralimbic prefrontal cortex. SST expression increased in early adolescent WT females and this upregulation was delayed in BDNF+/-. SST cell density also increased in early adolescent mPFC of WT female mice, with BDNF+/- again showing a reduced pattern of expression. Cal protein expression was also sex-dependently altered across adolescence with WT males showing a steady decline but that of BDNF+/- remaining unaltered. Reduced cell density in on the other hand was observed particularly in male BDNF+/- mice. In females, Cal protein expression and cell density remained largely stable. Our results show that PV, SST and calretinin interneurons are indeed still developing into early adolescence in the mPFC and that BDNF plays a critical, sex-specific role in mediating expression and cell density.

Keywords: Adolescence; BDNF; GABAergic interneurons; Gender-difference; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Calbindin 2 / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Sex Factors
  • Somatostatin / metabolism*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Calbindin 2
  • Parvalbumins
  • Somatostatin
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase