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J Neurochem. 2005 Feb;92(3):616-27.

Effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on glial cells and serotonergic neurones during development.

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AG Functional Cell Biology/Centre for Anatomy, Charité-Hochschulmedizin Berlin, Phillippstrasse 12, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Serotonergic neurones are among the first to develop in the central nervous system. Their survival and maturation is promoted by a variety of factors, including serotonin itself, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and S100beta, an astrocyte-specific Ca(2+) binding protein. Here, we used BDNF-deficient mice and cell cultures of embryonic raphe neurones to determine whether or not BDNF effects on developing serotonergic raphe neurones are influenced by its action on glial cells. In BDNF-/- mice, the number of serotonin-immunoreactive neuronal somata, the amount of the serotonin transporter, the serotonin content in the striatum and the hippocampus, and the content of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in all brain regions analysed were increased. By contrast, reduced immunoreactivity was found for myelin basic protein (MBP) in all brain areas including the raphe and its target region, the hippocampus. Exogenously applied BDNF increased the number of MBP-immunopositive cells in the respective culture systems. The raphe area displayed selectively reduced immunoreactivity for S100beta. Accordingly, S100beta was increased in primary cultures of pure astrocytes by exogenous BDNF. In glia-free neuronal cultures prepared from the embryonic mouse raphe, addition of BDNF supported the survival of serotonergic neurones and increased the number of axon collaterals and primary dendrites. The latter effect was inhibited by the simultaneous addition of S100beta. These results suggest that the presence of BDNF is not a requirement for the survival and maturation of serotonergic neurones in vivo. BDNF is, however, required for the local expression of S100beta and production of MBP. Therefore BDNF might indirectly influence the development of the serotonergic system by stimulating the expression of S100beta in astrocytes and the production MBP in oligodendrocytes.

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