Brain-derived neurotrophic factor-like immunoreactivity is localized mainly in small sensory neurons of rat dorsal root ganglia

J Neurosci Methods. 1996 Oct;68(2):281-8. doi: 10.1016/0165-0270(96)00093-3.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein capable of supporting the survival and fiber outgrowth of peripheral sensory neurons. It has been argued that histological detection of BDNF has proven difficult because of its low molecular weight and relatively low expression. In the present study we report that rapid removal of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) from the rat, followed by rapid freezing and appropriate fixation with cold acetone, preserves BDNF in situ without altering protein antigenicity. Under these conditions, specific BDNF-like immunoreactivity was detected in DRG both in vivo and in vitro. During DRG development in vivo, BDNF-like immunoreactivity (BDNF-LI) was observed only in a subset of sensory neurons. BDNF-LI was confined to small neurons, after neurons became morphologically distinct on the basis of size. BDNF-L immunoprecipitate was detected only in neuronal cells, and not in satellite or Schwann cells. While in vivo BDNF localization was restricted to small neurons, practically all neurons in DRG cell culture displayed BDNF-LI. Small or large primary afferent neurons exhibited a faint but clear BDNF-LI during the whole life span of cultures. Again, non-neuronal cells were devoid of BDNF-LI. In conclusion, in DRG in vivo, specific BDNF-LI was confined to small B sensory neurons. In contrast, all DRG sensory neurons displayed BDNF-LI in vitro. The finding that BDNF expressed in all DRG neurons in vitro but not in vivo suggests that BDNF expression may be modulated by environmental factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor