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Neurochem Int. 1998 Jan;32(1):87-91.

Differential regulation of BDNF and NT-3 mRNA levels in primary cultures of rat cerebellar neurons.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Catania, Italy.


Reciprocal developmental patterns of expression for BDNF and NT-3 have been observed in several neuronal types, including cerebellar granule neurons: NT3 mRNA level decreased and BDNF mRNA increased in granule cells concomitantly with their migration and maturation. In the present study we analysed cultured cerebellar granule neurons prepared from postnatal rat cerebellum, a model system widely used for studies on the maturation and survival of these neurons. We show that chronic depolarization, induced by 25 mM K+ in the culture medium, is able to sustain a persistent increase of BDNF expression in cerebellar granule neurons. It has been suggested that chronic depolarization in vitro mimics the effect of the earliest afferent inputs received by granule cells in vivo: on this basis we suggest that the beginning of neuronal activity in differentiated granule neurons may represent one of the signals that trigger the developmental increase in BDNF expression. Interestingly, we observed that up-regulation of BDNF expression in vitro is accompanied by a dramatic decrease of NT-3 expression: a differential regulation that is highly reminiscent of the reciprocal developmental patterns of expression observed in vivo for BDNF and NT-3. Another point raised by the present results is the possible role of BDNF, acting in an autocrine or paracrine manner, in the trophic effect of high potassium concentration. Indeed, repeated additions of BDNF to the culture medium have a trophic effect on cerebellar granule neurons but reproduce only partially the survival effect observed with 25 mM K+ conditions, suggesting that the increased expression of BDNF is not the only mechanism responsible for the trophic effects of high potassium. In conclusion we show the existence of a reciprocal regulation of BDNF and NT-3 expression in cultured cerebellar granule neurons and we propose that this culture system could represent an in vitro model for the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the developmental regulation of these neurotrophins in cerebellum.

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