Expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein in the adult rat central nervous system

Neuroscience. 1997 May;78(2):431-48. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(96)00613-6.


We have generated and characterized a multi-functional polyclonal anti-brain-derived neurotrophic factor antibody. Western blot analysis, dorsal root ganglion neurite outgrowth and dorsal root ganglion neuron survival assays showed that this antibody specifically recognized brain-derived neurotrophic factor and not the other neurotrophins. Furthermore, it was capable of blocking the functional effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Using this antibody, we examined the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in adult rat brains by immunohistochemistry. We found distinct brain-derived neurotrophic factor immunoreactivity in several structures of the brain. These included the neocortex, piriform cortex, amygdaloid complex, hippocampal formation, claustrum, some thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei, the substantia nigra and some brainstem structures. In contrast to brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA expression, brain-derived neurotrophic factor immunoreactivity was also found in the lateral septum, bed nucleus of the stria teminalis, medial preoptic nucleus, olivery pretectal nucleus, lateral paragigantocellular nucleus and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. In normal adult rat brains, there was little or no staining in the CA1 region or the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. However, kainate treatments greatly increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor immunoreactivity in the pyramidal cells of the CA1 region, as well as in the dentate gyrus, CA2 and CA3 hippocampal regions. We present evidence for both the subcellular localization and anterograde transport of endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the central nervous system. The detection of brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein in several discrete regions of the adult brain, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor's dramatic up-regulation following kainate treatment, strongly supports a role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the maintenance of adult neurons and synapses. Since several populations of neurons lost during neurodegenerative diseases synthesize brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein, modulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels may be clinically beneficial. The antibody described in this paper will be helpful in determining more precisely the functional activities of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the adult.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / immunology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Precipitin Tests
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins