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      Knockdown of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in specific brain sites precipitates behaviors associated with depression and reduces neurogenesis

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          Depression has been associated with reduced expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. In addition, animal studies suggest an association between reduced hippocampal neurogenesis and depressive-like behavior. These associations were predominantly established based on responses to antidepressant drugs and alterations in BDNF levels and neurogenesis in depressive patients or animal models for depressive behavior. Nevertheless, there is no direct evidence that the actual reduction of the BDNF protein in specific brain sites can induce depressive-like behaviors or affect neurogenesis in vivo. Using BDNF knockdown by RNA interference and lentiviral vectors injected into specific subregions of the hippocampus we show that a reduction in BDNF expression in the dentate gyrus, but not the CA3, reduces neurogenesis and affects behaviors associated with depression. Moreover, we show that BDNF has a critical function in neuronal differentiation, but not proliferation in vivo. Finally, we found that a specific BDNF knockdown in the ventral subiculum induces anhedonic-like behavior. These findings provide substantial support for the neurotrophic hypothesis of depression and specify anatomical and neurochemical targets for potential antidepressant interventions. Moreover, the specific effect of BDNF reduction on neuronal differentiation has broader implications for the study of neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative diseases.

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          Most cited references 67

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          A neurotrophic model for stress-related mood disorders.

          There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that stress decreases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in limbic structures that control mood and that antidepressant treatment reverses or blocks the effects of stress. Decreased levels of BDNF, as well as other neurotrophic factors, could contribute to the atrophy of certain limbic structures, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex that has been observed in depressed subjects. Conversely, the neurotrophic actions of antidepressants could reverse neuronal atrophy and cell loss and thereby contribute to the therapeutic actions of these treatments. This review provides a critical examination of the neurotrophic hypothesis of depression that has evolved from this work, including analysis of preclinical cellular (adult neurogenesis) and behavioral models of depression and antidepressant actions, as well as clinical neuroimaging and postmortem studies. Although there are some limitations, the results of these studies are consistent with the hypothesis that decreased expression of BDNF and possibly other growth factors contributes to depression and that upregulation of BDNF plays a role in the actions of antidepressant treatment.
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            The hippocampal-VTA loop: controlling the entry of information into long-term memory.

            In this article we develop the concept that the hippocampus and the midbrain dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) form a functional loop. Activation of the loop begins when the hippocampus detects newly arrived information that is not already stored in its long-term memory. The resulting novelty signal is conveyed through the subiculum, accumbens, and ventral pallidum to the VTA where it contributes (along with salience and goal information) to the novelty-dependent firing of these cells. In the upward arm of the loop, dopamine (DA) is released within the hippocampus; this produces an enhancement of LTP and learning. These findings support a model whereby the hippocampal-VTA loop regulates the entry of information into long-term memory.
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              The mesolimbic dopamine reward circuit in depression.

              The neural circuitry that mediates mood under normal and abnormal conditions remains incompletely understood. Most attention in the field has focused on hippocampal and frontal cortical regions for their role in depression and antidepressant action. While these regions no doubt play important roles in these phenomena, there is compelling evidence that other brain regions are also involved. Here we focus on the potential role of the nucleus accumbens (NAc; ventral striatum) and its dopaminergic input from the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which form the mesolimbic dopamine system, in depression. The mesolimbic dopamine system is most often associated with the rewarding effects of food, sex, and drugs of abuse. Given the prominence of anhedonia, reduced motivation, and decreased energy level in most individuals with depression, we propose that the NAc and VTA contribute importantly to the pathophysiology and symptomatology of depression and may even be involved in its etiology. We review recent studies showing that manipulations of key proteins (e.g. CREB, dynorphin, BDNF, MCH, or Clock) within the VTA-NAc circuit of rodents produce unique behavioral phenotypes, some of which are directly relevant to depression. Studies of these and other proteins in the mesolimbic dopamine system have established novel approaches to modeling key symptoms of depression in animals, and could enable the development of antidepressant medications with fundamentally new mechanisms of action.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]simpleDepartment of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel
                Author notes
                [* ]Author for correspondence: a.zangen@
                Mol Psychiatry
                Molecular Psychiatry
                Nature Publishing Group
                21 July 2009
                22 December 2009
                January 2010
                : 15
                : 1
                : 80-92
                Copyright 2010, Nature Publishing Group

                This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit

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