• Role of BDNF secretion and signaling in the activity-dependent refinement of synaptic connections
  • Bergami, Matteo <1981>


  • BIO/09 Fisiologia


  • Neuronal networks exhibit diverse types of plasticity, including the activity-dependent regulation of synaptic functions and refinement of synaptic connections. In addition, continuous generation of new neurons in the “adult” brain (adult neurogenesis) represents a powerful form of structural plasticity establishing new connections and possibly implementing pre-existing neuronal circuits (Kempermann et al, 2000; Ming and Song, 2005). Neurotrophins, a family of neuronal growth factors, are crucially involved in the modulation of activity-dependent neuronal plasticity. The first evidence for the physiological importance of this role evolved from the observations that the local administration of neurotrophins has dramatic effects on the activity-dependent refinement of synaptic connections in the visual cortex (McAllister et al, 1999; Berardi et al, 2000; Thoenen, 1995). Moreover, the local availability of critical amounts of neurotrophins appears to be relevant for the ability of hippocampal neurons to undergo long-term potentiation (LTP) of the synaptic transmission (Lu, 2004; Aicardi et al, 2004). To achieve a comprehensive understanding of the modulatory role of neurotrophins in integrated neuronal systems, informations on the mechanisms about local neurotrophins synthesis and secretion as well as ditribution of their cognate receptors are of crucial importance. In the first part of this doctoral thesis I have used electrophysiological approaches and real-time imaging tecniques to investigate additional features about the regulation of neurotrophins secretion, namely the capability of the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to undergo synaptic recycling. In cortical and hippocampal slices as well as in dissociated cell cultures, neuronal activity rapidly enhances the neuronal expression and secretion of BDNF which is subsequently taken up by neurons themselves but also by perineuronal astrocytes, through the selective activation of BDNF receptors. Moreover, internalized BDNF becomes part of the releasable source of the neurotrophin, which is promptly recruited for activity-dependent recycling. Thus, we described for the first time that neurons and astrocytes contain an endocytic compartment competent for BDNF recycling, suggesting a specialized form of bidirectional communication between neurons and glia. The mechanism of BDNF recycling is reminiscent of that for neurotransmitters and identifies BDNF as a new modulator implicated in neuro- and glio-transmission. In the second part of this doctoral thesis I addressed the role of BDNF signaling in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. I have generated a transgenic mouse model to specifically investigate the influence of BDNF signaling on the generation, differentiation, survival and connectivity of newborn neurons into the adult hippocampal network. I demonstrated that the survival of newborn neurons critically depends on the activation of the BDNF receptor TrkB. The TrkB-dependent decision regarding life or death in these newborn neurons takes place right at the transition point of their morphological and functional maturation Before newborn neurons start to die, they exhibit a drastic reduction in dendritic complexity and spine density compared to wild-type newborn neurons, indicating that this receptor is required for the connectivity of newborn neurons. Both the failure to become integrated and subsequent dying lead to impaired LTP. Finally, mice lacking a functional TrkB in the restricted population of newborn neurons show behavioral deficits, namely increased anxiety-like behavior. These data suggest that the integration and establishment of proper connections by newly generated neurons into the pre-existing network are relevant features for regulating the emotional state of the animal.


  • 2009-05-25


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Bergami, Matteo (2009) Role of BDNF secretion and signaling in the activity-dependent refinement of synaptic connections, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Neurofisiologia , 21 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/1757.