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Neuroscience. 2000;101(2):305-12.

Physical activity and antidepressant treatment potentiate the expression of specific brain-derived neurotrophic factor transcripts in the rat hippocampus.

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  • 1Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, the most abundant of the neurotrophins in the brain, enhances the growth and maintenance of several neuronal systems, serves as a neurotransmitter modulator, and participates in use-dependent plasticity mechanisms such as long-term potentiation and learning. In recent years, evidence has been gathering that brain-derived neurotrophic factor may have an important role in the neuropathology and treatment of depression. It has recently been reported that chronic (at least two weeks) antidepressant treatment leads to an up-regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA levels in the hippocampus, an important brain area for behavioral regulation, as well as learning and memory. Our laboratory has previously shown that general physical exercise very rapidly increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA in this brain area. In this report, we have tested the hypothesis that the combination of these two interventions, general physical activity and antidepressant treatment, leads to increased levels of specific promoter-derived transcripts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA in a manner that appears to be both additive and accelerated. Our results suggest that these two very different interventions may possibly converge at the cellular level. The induction of brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression by activity/pharmacological treatment combinations could represent an important intervention for further study, to potentially improve depression treatment and management.

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