Experimental neurology

Up-regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor is regulated by extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 5 and by nerve growth factor retrograde signaling in colonic afferent neurons in colitis.

PMID 22921460


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an essential role in sensory neuronal activation in response to visceral inflammation. Here we report that BDNF up-regulation in the primary afferent neurons in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in a rat model of colitis is mediated by the activation of endogenous extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) 5 and by nerve growth factor (NGF) retrograde signaling. At 7 days of colitis, the expression level of BDNF is increased in conventional neuronal tracing dye Fast Blue labeled primary afferent neurons that project to the distal colon. In these neurons, the phosphorylation (activation) level of ERK5 is also increased. In contrast, the level of phospho-ERK1/2 is not changed in the DRG during colitis. Prevention of the ERK5 activation in vivo with an intrathecal application of the MEK inhibitor PD98059 significantly attenuates the colitis-induced increases in BDNF expression in the DRG. Further studies show that BDNF up-regulation in the DRG is triggered by NGF retrograde signaling which also involves activation of the MEK/ERK pathways. Application of exogenous NGF exclusively to the compartment containing DRG nerve terminals in an ex vivo ganglia-nerve preparation markedly increases the BDNF expression level in the DRG neuronal cell body that is placed in a different compartment; this BDNF elevation is attenuated by U0126, PD98059 and a specific ERK5 inhibitor BIX02188. These results demonstrate the mechanisms and pathways by which BDNF expression is elevated in primary sensory neurons following visceral inflammation that is mediated by increased activity of ERK5 and is likely to be triggered by the elevated NGF level in the inflamed viscera.