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J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 3;30(44):14708-18. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1637-10.2010.

BDNF overexpression in the forebrain rescues Huntington's disease phenotypes in YAC128 mice.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by an expansion of the polyglutamine tract at the N terminus of huntingtin. This mutation reduces levels of BDNF in the striatum, likely by inhibiting cortical Bdnf gene expression and anterograde transport of BDNF from the cerebral cortex to the striatum. Substantial evidence suggests that this reduction of striatal BDNF plays a crucial role in HD pathogenesis. Here we report that overexpression of BDNF in the forebrain rescues many disease phenotypes in YAC128 mice that express a full-length human huntingtin mutant with a 128-glutamine tract. The Bdnf transgene, under the control of the promoter for α subunit of Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, greatly increased BDNF levels in the cerebral cortex and striatum. BDNF overexpression in YAC128 mice prevented loss and atrophy of striatal neurons and motor dysfunction, normalized expression of the striatal dopamine receptor D2 and enkephalin, and improved procedural learning. Furthermore, quantitative analyses of Golgi-impregnated neurons revealed a decreased spine density and abnormal spine morphology in striatal neurons of YAC128 mice, which was also reversed by increasing BDNF levels in the striatum. These results demonstrate that reduced striatal BDNF plays a crucial role in the HD pathogenesis and suggest that attempts to restore striatal BDNF level may have therapeutic effects to the disease.

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