Background: Excessive microglial activation is implicated in the pathogenesis of various age-related neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to neurons, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB are also expressed in microglia. However, the direct effect of BDNF on age-related microglial activation has rarely been investigated. Methods: We began to address this question by examining the effect of age on microglial activation and the BDNF-TrkB pathway in mice. By using pharmacological and genetic approaches, the roles of BDNF and downstream signaling pathways in microglial activation and related neurotoxicity were examined in microglial cell line and primary microglial cells. Results: We showed that microglial activation was evident in the brains of aged mice. The levels of BDNF and TrkB in microglia decreased with age and negatively correlated with their activation statuses in mice during aging. Interestingly, aging-related microglial activation could be reversed by chronic, subcutaneous perfusion of BDNF. Peripheral lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection-induced microglial activation could be reduced by local supplement of BDNF, while shTrkB induced local microglial activation in naïve mice. In cultured microglial cell line and primary microglial cells, BDNF inhibited LPS-induced microglial activation, including morphological changes, activations of p38, JNK, and NF-kB, and productions of proinflammatory cytokines. These effects were blocked by shTrkB. BDNF induced activations of ErK and CREB which then competed with LPS-induced activation of NF-kB for binding to a common coactivator, CREB-binding protein. Conclusions: Decreasing BDNF-TrkB signaling during aging favors microglial activation, while upregulation BDNF signaling inhibits microglial activation via the TrkB-Erk-CREB pathway.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience