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BACKGROUND: Changes in densities and in the morphology of dendritic spines in the hippocampus are linked to hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), spatial learning, and depression. Decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels seem to contribute to depression. Through its receptor trkB, BDNF is also involved in hippocampal LTP and hippocampus-dependent learning. Conditionally gene-targeted mice in which the ablation of trkB is restricted to the forebrain and occurs only during postnatal development display impaired learning and LTP. METHODS: To examine whether there is a link among impaired hippocampal synaptic plasticity, altered spines, and trkB receptors, we performed a quantitative analysis of spine densities and spine length in the hippocampal area CA1 and the dentate gyrus in conditional mutant mice (trkB(lox/lox)CaMKII-CRE mice). TrkB protein and mRNA levels were assayed using Western blot and in situ hybridization analysis. RESULTS: Fifteen-week-old mutant mice exhibit specific reductions in spine densities and a significant increase in spine length of apical and basal dendrites in area CA1. These alterations correlate with a time- and region-specific reduction in full-length trkB mRNA in the hippocampus. CONCLUSIONS: TrkB functions in structural remodeling of hippocampal dendritic spines, which in turn may affect synaptic transmission and plasticity.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Psychiatry

Publication Date





793 - 800


Age Factors, Animals, Blotting, Western, Dendritic Spines, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Hippocampus, Immunoprecipitation, In Situ Hybridization, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Neurons, Receptor, trkB, Silver Staining