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New insights into growth factor's role in brain development
Date:2/2/2009

esults suggest that the expression of proBDNF and p75 are coordinated, with higher and more widespread levels of both molecules seen in the young mouse brain, and lower and more localized levels expressed in the more mature brain.

Since the neurotrophins were discovered many years ago, controversy has existed over a seemingly contradictory role for BDNF. On the one hand, it seems to incite cell death by binding with p75, or dampening synaptic transmission -- important roles identified by co-author Dr. Bai Lu of the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. However, the mature form of BDNF also facilitates synaptic transmission and promotes survival and dendritic complexity by activating a class of receptors called the Trk tyrosine kinases.

"Many people in the field wondered how this could be possible," Dr. Hempstead says. "We found that both the 'pro,' or longer precursor form of BDNF, as well as the shorter survival-promoting form of BDNF are secreted by neurons. This gives us a clearer picture that BDNF plays dual roles in the developing brain -- possibly both dampening and enhancing synaptic activity."

Extrapolating her findings from mouse to human, Dr. Hempstead says that this finding provides new insight into how the brain is wired and how this wiring is refined -- particularly during the developmental stages.

"When we're young we all have the ability to learn a multitude of things and acquire many skills. We can quickly learn languages, how to ride a bicycle or to swim. But as we get older our neuronal circuits become more refined, responsive to the things we do on a repetitive basis," Dr. Hempstead says. "This synaptic strengthening, pruning and refining allow us to have more effective and efficient nerve communication. The question has always been, how do we refine and strengthen synapses that we want to maintain and eliminate those that are 'noise' in the background? Our research provides important c
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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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