Expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may play a role in the mechanism of neuronal cell death after cerebral ischemia. We investigated the changes in levels of mRNAs encoding BDNF and its promoters in the rat brain after transient forebrain ischemia. Transient forebrain ischemia was induced by occlusion of bilateral common carotid arteries and systemic hypotension for 8 min. The alterations in BDNF gene expression in the hippocampus and in the cerebral cortex were examined by in situ hybridization using a mouse BDNF cDNA probe and cDNA probes including exon-specific promoters. BDNF transcripts were rapidly enhanced after the ischemic insult, both in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex. NBQX suppressed the enhanced gene expression of BDNF markedly in the dentate gyrus (DG). In contrast, MK-801 had little effect on BDNF expression. In the piriform cortex, MK-801 or NBQX reduced the expression only moderately. After the ischemic insult, promoter specific BDNF 5'-exon I and exon III were increased remarkably in the DG. The increase in exon I in DG was suppressed partially by MK-801 and NBQX, while the increase in exon III in CA3 was suppressed by MK-801 but that in DG was not suppressed by either antagonist. In the piriform cortex, exon III was increased remarkably and this increase was not influenced by either agonist. These results suggest that the gene expression of BDNF was enhanced by transient ischemia both in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex and that the cerebral ischemia stimulated at least two different promoter - and neuron type - specific pathways regulating expression of the BDNF gene mediated by glutamate receptors of non-NMDA type and NMDA type.
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