Expression of the neurotrophins NT-4, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and NT-3 in adult rat lumbosacral spinal cord motoneurons is reported. A sensitive in situ hybridization procedure demonstrates localization of the mRNA for each of these neurotrophins within spinal motoneurons of the adult and in early postnatal development. A majority of adult rat spinal cord lumbar motoneurons (approximately 63%) express NT-4 mRNA as assessed by counting motoneurons in the L4 and L5 segments of two adult rat spinal cords on adjacent cresyl violet–stained and in situ hybridization sections. Similarly, a majority of lumbar motoneurons (approximately 73%) express BDNF mRNA. Further analyses of adjacent lumbar spinal cord sections revealed that many, although not all motoneurons coexpress both NT-4 and BDNF mRNAs. At birth, the mRNA encoding NT-3 is expressed in motoneurons, but BDNF mRNA is not apparent until postnatal day 5 (P5) and NT-4 mRNA first appears at P9. The potential biological significance of neurotrophin mRNA expression in spinal motoneurons is supported by immunohistochemical localization of each neurotrophin protein in adult motoneurons. We discuss the potential role of spinal cord neurotrophins as autocrine or paracrine factors involved in modulating motoneuron synaptic function.
- synaptic plasticity,
- gene expression,
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