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Downregulated hippocampal expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor and tyrosine kinase B in a rat model of comorbid epilepsy and depression.


To investigate the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor(BDNF) and tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) protein in the hippocampus of model rats of comorbid epilepsy and depression. A rat model of epilepsy was established using lithium chloride.pilocarpine. Among these epileptic rats, those with comorbid depression were selected by a battery of behavioral tests starting on the 14th day after establishing the epilepsy model. A depression group was established by unpredicted chronic mild stress (UCMS) and separate housing. These treatment groups were compared to an untreated control group. Thirteen rats per group were examined by immunofluorescence staining with optical density quantitation to determine the distribution of BDNF- and TrkB-positive cells in the hippocampus and by western blotting to estimate total protein expression levels during the 4th week after establishing the models. Immunofluorescence staining for NeuN was also conducted in hippocampus to evaluate neuronal survival. Depression-like behaviors were also assessed. Compared to the untreated control group and the epilepsy alone group, the comorbid group exhibited lower average optical densities of BDNF- and TrkB-immunopositive cells as well as lower total BDNF and TrkB protein expression levels (all P = 0.000). The comorbid group exhibited lower behavioral scores compared to all other groups (all P=0.000). Numbers of NeuN-positive cells were lower in the hippocampus of all three experimental groups compared to the untreated control group (all P = 0.000). These results suggest that hypofunctional BDNF-TrkB signaling may contribute to depression in epilepsy. BDNF: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; TrkB: tyrosine kinase B; UCMS: unpredicted chronic mild stress; PBS: phosphate-buffered saline; HS: Hippocampal sclerosis.