We generated a knock-in mouse line in which the gene encoding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) was replaced with a sequence for proBDNF containing human single nucleotide polymorphisms encoding arginines proximal to the cleavage site (R125M and R127L). The ratio of the mature form of BDNF (mBDNF) to precursor BDNF (proBDNF) in hippocampal tissue lysates was decreased in a manner dependent on the number of copies of the mutant gene, indicating that the mutations inhibited proteolytic conversion of proBDNF into mBDNF. Although homozygous mice had a proBDNF/mBDNF ratio of ~9:1, they survived until adulthood. The levels of mBDNF were reduced by 57% in heterozygous mutant mice, which exhibited a depressive-like behavior in the tail suspension test and weight gain when housed in social isolation, showing that impaired proBDNF cleavage contributes to stress-induced depressive-like phenotypes. Furthermore, socially isolated heterozygous mice displayed a pronounced deficit in daily nest-building behaviors. These findings suggest that the decreased production of mBDNF by impaired proBDNF cleavage disturbs daily activities in mice.
Keywords: BDNF; SNP; cleavage; depression; nest building; social isolation.