Pattern of trkB protein-like immunoreactivity in vivo and the in vitro effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on developing cochlear and vestibular neurons

Research paper by Esther Vazquez, Thomas R. Van De Water, Miguel Del Valle, José Antonio Vega, Hinrich Staecker, Fernando Giráldez, Juan Represa

Indexed on: 01 Feb '94Published on: 01 Feb '94Published in: Anatomy and embryology


The cochleo-vestibular ganglion (CVG) contains the neurons connecting the sensory epithelia of the inner ear to the cochlear and vestibular nuclei in the medulla. Expression of trkB protein-like immunoreactivity was studied in the developing CVG, using both Western blot and immunocytochemistry on tissue sections. Specific immunoreactivity was observed in the CVG from the 12th gestation day (gd) to the first postnatal week, reflecting the presence of high-affinity receptors for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a member of the NGF family of neurotrophins. Whole explants and dissociated cell cultures of cochlear (CG) and vestibular ganglion (VG) from mouse embryos and postnatal specimens were grown in neurotrophin-free medium to assay changes in neurite outgrowth and neuronal survival in response to the addition of physiological concentrations (0–5 ng/ml) of BDNF. Exogenous BDNF (2 ng/ml) promoted neurite outgrowth and neuronal survival in explants of both CG and VG, and the effects were stage-dependent. The onset of the response to BDNF occurred at gd 11–12. The response then reached a maximum between 14 and 18 gd and subsequently decreased, although it remained significantly present during the first postnatal week. BDNF-induced response was no longer observed in the mature cochlear and vestibular ganglion (after 30 postnatal days). The effects of BDNF on neuronal differentiation and survival were dose-dependent, starting at 0.5 ng/ml, with saturation at 2 ng/ml and half-maximal effect occurring between 1 and 1.5 ng/ml. On the basis of our results, we propose that BDNF may be physiologically involved in the control of both neuronal differentiation, and central and peripheral target-dependent neuronal death, in the CVG of embryos and early postnatal mice. BDNF may act alone or in cooperation with other neurotrophins to establish the afferent innervation of the inner ear sensory epithelium.