Brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes the maturation of GABAergic mechanisms in cultured hippocampal neurons

Maki K. Yamada, Kohsuke Nakanishi, Shizu Ohba, Takeshi Nakamura, Yuji Ikegaya, Nobuyoshi Nishiyama, Norio Matsuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been implicated in activity-dependent plasticity of neuronal function and network arrangement. To clarify how BDNF exerts its action, we evaluated the physiological, histological, and biochemical characteristics of cultured hippocampal neurons after long-term treatment with BDNF. Here we show that BDNF facilitates high K+-elicited release of GABA but not of glutamate and induces an increase in immunoreactive signals of glutamic acid decarboxylase, a GABA-synthesizing enzyme. The soma size of GABAergic neurons was enlarged in BDNF-treated cultures, whereas the average soma size of all neurons was virtually unchanged. BDNF also upregulated protein levels of GABAA receptors but not of glutamate receptors. These data imply that BDNF selectively advances the maturation of GABAergic syn apses. However, immunocytochemical analyses revealed that a significant expression of TrkB, a high-affinity receptor for BDNF, was detected in non-GABAergic as well as GABAergic neurons. BDNF also increased to total amount of synaptic vesicle-associated proteins without affecting the number of presynaptic vesicles that can be labeled with FM1-43 after K+ depolarization. Together, our findings indicate that BDNF principally promotes GABAergic maturation but may also potentially contribute to excitatory synapse development via increasing resting synaptic vesicles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7580-7585
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Sept 1
Externally publishedYes


  • BDNF
  • GABA
  • Hippocampus
  • Inhibitory neuron
  • Neural network
  • Plasticity
  • Resting pool
  • Synaptic vesicle-associated protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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