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Neuroscience. 2000;101(3):531-9.

Increased synaptic inhibition in dentate gyrus of mice with reduced levels of endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

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Section of Restorative Neurology, Wallenberg Neuroscience Center, University Hospital, S-221 85, Lund, Sweden.


The aim of this study was to explore the role of endogenous neurotrophins for inhibitory synaptic transmission in the dentate gyrus of adult mice. Heterozygous knockout (+/-) mice or neurotrophin scavenging proteins were used to reduce the levels of endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3. Patch-clamp recordings from dentate granule cells in brain slices showed that the frequency, but not the kinetics or amplitude, of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents was modulated in brain-derived neurotrophic factor +/- compared to wild-type (+/+) mice. Furthermore, paired-pulse depression of evoked inhibitory synaptic responses was increased in brain-derived neurotrophic factor +/- mice. Similar results were obtained in brain slices from brain-derived neurotrophic factor +/+ mice incubated with tyrosine receptor kinase B-immunoglobulin G, which scavenges endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor. The increased inhibitory synaptic activity in brain-derived neurotrophic factor +/- mice was accompanied by decreased excitability of the granule cells. No differences in the frequency, amplitude or kinetics of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents were seen between neurotrophin-3 +/- and +/+ mice. From these results we suggest that endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor, but not neurotrophin-3, has acute modulatory effects on synaptic inhibition onto dentate granule cells. The site of action seems to be located presynaptically, i.e. brain-derived neurotrophic factor regulates the properties of inhibitory interneurons, leading to increased excitability of dentate granule cells. We propose that through this mechanism, brain-derived neurotrophic factor can change the gating/filtering properties of the dentate gyrus for incoming information from the entorhinal cortex to hippocampus. This will have consequences for the recruitment of hippocampal neural circuitries both under physiological and pathological conditions, such as epileptogenesis.

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