Crosstalk Between Glucocorticoid Receptor and Early-growth Response Protein 1 Accounts for Repression of Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor Transcript 4 Expression

Neuroscience. 2019 Feb 10:399:12-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.12.012. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a key player in brain functions such as synaptic plasticity, stress, and behavior. Its gene structure in rodents contains 8 untranslated exons (I to VIII) whose expression is finely regulated and which spliced onto a common and unique translated exon IX. Altered Bdnf expression is associated with many pathologies such as depression, Alzheimer's disease and addiction. Through binding to glucocorticoid receptor (GR), glucocorticoids play a pivotal role for stress responses, mood and neuronal plasticity. We recently showed in neuronal primary culture and in the immortalized neuronal-like BZ cells that GR repressed Bdnf expression, notably the bdnf exon IV containing mRNA isoform (Bdnf4) via GR binding to a short 275-bp sequence of Bdnf promoter. Herein, we demonstrate by transient transfection experiments and mutagenesis in BZ cells that GR interacts with an early growth response protein 1 (EGR1) response element (EGR-RE) located in the transcription start site of Bdnf exon IV promoter. Using Chromatin Immunoprecipitation, we find that both GR and EGR1 bind to this promoter sequence in a glucocorticoid-dependent manner and demonstrate by co-immunoprecipitation that GR and EGR1 are interacting physically. Interestingly, EGR1 has been widely characterized as a regulator of brain plasticity. In conclusion, we deciphered a mechanism by which GR downregulates Bdnf expression, identifying a novel functional crosstalk between glucocorticoid pathways, immediate early growth response proteins and Bdnf. As all these factors are well-recognized germane for brain pathophysiology, these findings may have significant implications in neurosciences as well as in therapeutics.

Keywords: BDNF; EGR1; glucocorticoid receptor; promoter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Exons
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid