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Neuroscience. 2002;114(3):795-805.

BDNF overexpression increases dendrite complexity in hippocampal dentate gyrus.

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Department of Comparative Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


There is increasing evidence that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) modulates synaptic and morphological plasticity in the developing and mature nervous system. Plasticity may be modulated partially by BDNF's effects on dendritic structure. Utilizing transgenic mice where BDNF overexpression was controlled by the beta-actin promoter, we evaluated the effects of long-term overexpression of BDNF on the dendritic structure of granule cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. BDNF transgenic mice provided the opportunity to investigate the effects of modestly increased BDNF levels on dendrite structure in the complex in vivo environment. While the elevated BDNF levels were insufficient to change levels of TrkB receptor isoforms or downstream TrkB signaling, they did increase dendrite complexity of dentate granule cells. These cells showed an increased number of first order dendrites, of total dendritic length and of total number of branch points. These results suggest that dendrite structure of granule cells is tightly regulated and is sensitive to modest increases in levels of BDNF. This is the first study to evaluate the effects of BDNF overexpression on dendrite morphology in the intact hippocampus and extends previous in vitro observations that BDNF influences synaptic plasticity by increasing complexity of dendritic arbors.

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