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Brain Res. 2001 Nov 16;919(1):57-69.

Induction of functional and morphological expression of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in cortical cultures by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): evidence for a requirement for extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK)-dependent and ERK-independent mechanisms.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390-9032, USA.


Previous studies have demonstrated that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) induces expression of neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in aggregate cultures derived from the fetal rat cortex. Using BDNF induction of NPY production and neurite extension of NPY neurons as functional and morphological criteria, respectively, we addressed the question: Does BDNF activate the extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway and if so, is activated (phosphorylated, P)-ERK required for the induction of both the functional and morphological expression of NPY? BDNF led to a rapid (30 min) and sustained (6 h) phosphorylation of ERK. PD98059 (PD, a specific inhibitor of the ERK kinase MEK), drastically inhibited, LY294002 (LY, a specific inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase, PI-3K) partially inhibited, and GF 109203X (GF, a specific inhibitor of protein kinase C) did not inhibit phosphorylation of ERK. A 24-h exposure to BDNF led to approximately 2-fold increase in the total culture content of NPY ( approximately 60% of which was secreted and approximately 40% remained in the aggregates) and to an abundance of neurite-bearing NPY neurons. BDNF-induced NPY produced and secreted into the medium was inhibited 73% by PD, 52% by LY and not at all by GF. In contrast, BDNF-induced NPY produced and sequestered in the aggregates was not inhibited by any of these inhibitors, suggesting a role for the ERK pathway in induced secretion of NPY. PD or LY did not inhibit BDNF-induced abundance of neurite-bearing NPY neurons. K252a (an inhibitor of TrkB-tyrosine kinase) abolished all the effects of BDNF assessed in our cultures. In summary, we demonstrate that TrkB-mediated activation of the ERK pathway is preferentially required for BDNF induction of NPY produced and secreted but not for the induction of the expression of neurite-bearing NPY neurons. Thus, BDNF induction of the functional and morphological expression of NPY is brought about by ERK-dependent and ERK-independent mechanisms.

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