Loss of developing cholinergic basal forebrain neurons following excitotoxic lesions of the hippocampus: Rescue by neurotrophins

Melanie A. Burke, William C. Mobley, Jaeyoung Cho, Stanley J. Wiegand, Ronald M. Lindsay, Elliott J. Mufson, Jeffrey H. Kordower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Previous studies have demonstrated that the viability of developing cholinergic basal forebrain neurons is dependent upon the integrity of neurotrophin-secreting target cells. In the present study, we examined whether infusions of nerve growth factor (NGF) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) could prevent the loss of cholinergic septal/diagonal band neurons following excitotoxic lesions of their target neurons within the hippocampus. Postnatal Day 10 rat pups received unilateral intrahippocampal injections of ibotenic acid. Rats then received intracerebroventricular (icv) injections of nerve growth factor (30 μg/injection), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (60 μg/injection), or saline immediately following the lesion and continuing every third day for 27 days. Both saline- and BDNF-treated rats displayed a significant loss of septal/diagonal band neurons expressing the protein and mRNA for choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and p75 low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor ipsilateral to the lesion. The magnitude of this loss was significantly attenuated in BDNF-treated rats. Many remaining neurons were atrophic with stunted dendritic processes. In contrast, NGF treatment completely rescued these cells and prevented the shrinkage of remaining cholinergic septal neurons. In addition, both NGF and BDNF induced a sprouting of cholinergic processes within the residual hippocampal remnant ipsilateral to the infusions. The present study demonstrates that icv injections of NGF, and to a lesser extent BDNF, prevent the loss of developing basal forebrain neurons which occurs following removal of normal target cells. Diffusion studies revealed relatively poor penetration of BDNF into brain parenchyma. Thus, it remains to be determined whether the failure of BDNF to provide optimal trophic support for these cells is biological or due to restricted bioavailability of this trophic factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-195
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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