Activity-dependent and hormonal regulation of neurotrophin mRNA levels in the brain--implications for neuronal plasticity

J Neurobiol. 1994 Nov;25(11):1362-72. doi: 10.1002/neu.480251105.


The neurotrophins exhibit neurotrophic effects on specific, partially overlapping populations of neurons both in the peripheral and the central nervous system (CNS). In the periphery, they are synthesized by a variety of nonneuronal cells, and their synthesis seems to be independent of the neuronal input. In contrast, in the CNS all neurotrophins are expressed under physiological conditions primarily by neurons. The production of NGF and BDNF is controlled by neuronal activity: up-regulation by glutamate and acetylcholine, down-regulation by gamma-aminobutyric acid. In contrast, NT-3 regulation is independent of neuronal activity, but it is up-regulated by thyroid hormones and BDNF. The latter observation suggests that NT-3 might be controlled indirectly by neuronal activity via BDNF. In peripheral nonneuronal tissues, glucocorticoid hormones down-regulate NGF mRNA levels both in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, in the CNS, neuronal production of NGF is enhanced by glucocorticoids. The rapid regulation of NGF and BDNF by subtle physiological stimuli together with the recent demonstration that the neurotrophins release neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine opens up interesting perspectives for the function of neurotrophins as mediators of neuronal plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factors / biosynthesis
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*


  • Hormones
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • RNA, Messenger