Increased Hippocampal ProBDNF Contributes to Memory Impairments in Aged Mice

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Physiology, Hippocampus, Memory, Neurons, Neurodegeneration, Spatial memory, Aging

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Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging


Memory decline during aging or accompanying neurodegenerative diseases, represents a major health problem. Neurotrophins have long been considered relevant to the mechanisms of aging-associated cognitive decline and neurodegeneration. Mature Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and its precursor (proBDNF) can both be secreted in response to neuronal activity and exert opposing effects on neuronal physiology and plasticity. In this study, biochemical analyses revealed that increased levels of proBDNF are present in the aged mouse hippocampus relative to young and that the level of hippocampal proBDNF inversely correlates with the ability to perform in a spatial memory task (water radial arm maze). To ascertain the role of increased proBDNF levels on hippocampal function and memory we performed infusions of proBDNF into the CA1 region of the dorsal hippocampus in male mice trained in the water radial arm maze paradigm: In well-performing aged mice, intra-hippocampal proBDNF infusions resulted in a progressive and significant impairment of memory performance. This impairment was associated with increased p-cofilin levels, an important regulator of dendritic spines and synapse physiology. On the other hand, in poor performers, intra-hippocampal infusions of TAT-Pep5, a peptide which blocks the interaction between the p75 Neurotrophin Receptor (p75NTR) and RhoGDI, significantly improved learning and memory, while saline infusions had no effect. Our results support a role for proBDNF and its receptor p75NTR in aging-related memory impairments.

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