Cells that Express Brain‐Derived Neurotrophic Factor mRNA in the Developing Postnatal Rat Brain

Wilma J. Friedman, Lars Olson, Håkan Persson

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Brain‐derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a member of a family of related neurotrophic proteins which includes nerve growth factor (NGF) and hippocampus‐derived neurotrophic factor/neurotrophin‐3 (NT‐3). To obtain information regarding possible roles for BDNF during postnatal brain development, we have examined the temporal and spatial expression of this trophic factor using in situ hybridization. In specific neocortical regions BDNF mRNA‐expressing cells were seen at 2 weeks of age and thereafter. One particular neuronal cell type strikingly labelled was the inverted pyramidal cell population in the deep layers of parietotemporal cortex. In pyriform and cingulate cortices, BDNF mRNA was detected at postnatal day 1 and 1 week of age, respectively, with increasing levels during ontogeny. Several forebrain regions, including the thalamic anterior paraventricular nucleus, hypothalamic ventromedial nucleus as well as the preoptic area, contained moderate levels of BDNF mRNA throughout development. BDNF mRNA was detected transiently in several brainstem structures, notably in the substantia nigra and interpeduncular nucleus. Expression of this trophic factor in hippocampus was relatively low in the early neonatal brain, but attained high levels in the CA3 and CA4 regions as well as in the dentate gyrus by 2 weeks of age. At this early age, which is still during the period of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus, labelling was restricted to the outer layer, which contained cells with a more mature appearance. However, by 3 weeks of age labelling was distributed throughout the granule cell layer. Our results show both transient and persistent expression of BDNF mRNA in various regions of the developing rat brain and suggest that there is a caudal to rostral gradient of BDNF expression during postnatal brain development, which may be correlated to neuronal maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-697
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • BDNF
  • in situ hybridization
  • neurotrophic factors
  • transient expression


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