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Neuroscience. 2003;118(2):477-90.

A calcium/calmodulin kinase pathway connects brain-derived neurotrophic factor to the cyclic AMP-responsive transcription factor in the rat hippocampus.

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Laboratoire Développement et Vieillissement du Système Nerveux UMR 7102 CNRS-UPMC (Neurobiologie des Processus Adaptatifs), Université P & M Curie, 9 Quai Saint-Bernard, Bâtiment B, 4e Etage, Boîte 14, 75005 Paris, France.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays fundamental roles in synaptic plasticity in rat hippocampus. Recently, using rat hippocampal slices, we found that BDNF induces activation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase 2 (CaMKII), a critical mediator of synaptic plasticity. CaMKII in turn activates the p38 subfamily of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and its downstream effector, MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 (MAPKAPK-2). Herein, we determined whether some kinases of this pathway connect BDNF to the cyclic AMP response element -binding protein (CREB), a transcription factor also involved in plasticity and survival. Crude cytosolic and nuclear fractions were prepared from hippocampal slices of adult rat, and then kinase involvement in CREB phosphorylation was studied with a combination of pharmacologic inhibition and antibody depletion. In addition, the regional localization of this signaling pathway was immunohistochemically investigated. We show that: (i). the BDNF-stimulated CaMKII cascade phosphorylates the key positive regulatory site of CREB via its end MAPKAPK-2 component; (ii). this process appears to be highly localized in the outermost cell layer of the dentate gyrus. The present findings suggest that CaMKII is involved in neurotrophic-dependent activation of CREB in the dentate gyrus. Such a signaling process could be important for controlling synaptic plasticity in this major area for the afferent inputs to the hippocampal formation.

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