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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;32(7):2410-21. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5205-11.2012.

The BDNF Val66Met polymorphism impairs synaptic transmission and plasticity in the infralimbic medial prefrontal cortex.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York, USA.


The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val66Met polymorphism is a common human single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that affects the regulated release of BDNF, and has been implicated in affective disorders and cognitive dysfunction. A decreased activation of the infralimbic medial prefrontal cortex (IL-mPFC), a brain region critical for the regulation of affective behaviors, has been described in BDNF(Met) carriers. However, it is unclear whether and how the Val66Met polymorphism affects the IL-mPFC synapses. Here, we report that spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) was absent in the IL-mPFC pyramidal neurons from BDNF(Met/Met) mice, a mouse that recapitulates the specific phenotypic properties of the human BDNF Val66Met polymorphism. Also, we observed a decrease in NMDA and GABA receptor-mediated synaptic transmission in the pyramidal neurons of BDNF(Met/Met) mice. While BDNF enhanced non-NMDA receptor transmission and depressed GABA receptor transmission in the wild-type mice, both effects were absent in BDNF(Met/Met) mice after BDNF treatment. Indeed, exogenous BDNF reversed the deficits in STDP and NMDA receptor transmission in BDNF(Met/Met) neurons. BDNF-mediated selective reversal of the deficit in plasticity and NMDA receptor transmission, but its lack of effect on GABA and non-NMDA receptor transmission in BDNF(Met/Met) mice, suggests separate mechanisms of Val66Met polymorphism upon synaptic transmission. The effect of the Val66Met polymorphism on synaptic transmission and plasticity in the IL-mPFC represents a mechanism to account for this impact of SNP on affective disorders and cognitive dysfunction.

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