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Stress. 1999 Dec;3(2):173-83.

Corticosterone effects on BDNF mRNA expression in the rat hippocampus during morris water maze training.

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Leiden Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, Division of Medical Pharmacology, Sylvius Laboratories, P.O. Box 9503, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


Corticosterone and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) have both been shown to be involved in spatial memory formation in rats. In the present study we have investigated the effect of corticosterone on hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression after training in the Morris water maze in young adult Wistar rats. Therefore, we first studied BDNF mRNA levels in the hippocampus in relation to corticosterone levels at several time points after 4 training trials in the Morris water maze. Corticosterone levels were significantly increased after this procedure, and hippocampal BDNF mRNA levels only displayed a minor change: an increase in CA1 at 1 hr after training. However, in a previous study we observed dramatically decreased hippocampal BDNF mRNA levels in dentate gyrus and CA1 at 3 hr after injection of corticosterone. In order to analyze this discrepancy, we subsequently investigated if hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression is affected by corticosterone at 3 hr after water maze training. Therefore, we incorporated ADX animals and ADX animals which were injected with corticosterone in our study. ADX animals which were subjected to water maze training displayed similar hippocampal BDNF mRNA levels 3 hr after training compared to control ADX animals. Furthermore, ADX animals which were injected with corticosterone showed decreased BDNF mRNA levels in all hippocampal regions compared to control ADX animals. Water maze training did not alter this effect. Thus, the increased corticosterone levels during water maze training do not affect hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression, although exogenous corticosterone is effective under these conditions. Hence, our results suggest that in this situation BDNF is resistant to regulation by endogenous corticosterone, which may be important for learning and memory processes.

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