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Neuropharmacology. 2014 Jan;76 Pt C:709-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.04.002. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Role of BDNF epigenetics in activity-dependent neuronal plasticity.

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Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki, Viikinkaari 4, 00790 Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address:


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a key mediator of the activity-dependent processes in the brain that have a major impact on neuronal development and plasticity. Impaired control of neuronal activity-induced BDNF expression mediates the pathogenesis of various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Different environmental stimuli, such as the use of pharmacological compounds, physical and learning exercises or stress exposure, lead to activation of specific neuronal networks. These processes entail tight temporal and spatial transcriptional control of numerous BDNF splice variants through epigenetic mechanisms. The present review highlights recent findings on the dynamic and long-term epigenetic programming of BDNF gene expression by the DNA methylation, histone-modifying and microRNA machineries. The review also summarizes the current knowledge on the activity-dependent BDNF mRNA trafficking critical for rapid local regulation of BDNF levels and synaptic plasticity. Current data open novel directions for discovery of new promising therapeutic targets for treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'BDNF Regulation of Synaptic Structure, Function, and Plasticity'.


BDNF exons; BDNF promoter; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Histone modifications; MicroRNAs; Neuronal activity

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