Genetically defined fear-induced aggression: Focus on BDNF and its receptors

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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), its precursor proBDNF, BDNF pro-peptide, BDNF mRNA levels, as well as TrkB and p75NTR receptors mRNA and protein levels, were studied in the brain of rats, selectively bred for more than 85 generations for either the high level or the lack of fear-induced aggressive behavior. Furthermore, we have found that rats of aggressive strain demonstrated both high level of aggression toward humans and increased amplitude of acoustic startle response compared to rats selectively bred for the lack of fear-induced aggression. Significant increase in the BDNF mRNA, mature BDNF and proBDNF protein levels in the raphe nuclei (RN), hippocampus (Hc), nucleus accumbens (NAcc), amygdala, striatum and hypothalamus (Ht) of aggressive rats was revealed. The BDNF/proBDNF ratio was significantly reduced in the Hc and NAcc of highly aggressive rats suggesting prevalence of the proBDNF in these structures. In the Hc and frontal cortex (FC) of aggressive rats, the level of the full-length TrkB (TrkB-FL) receptor form was decreased, whereas the truncated TrkB (TrkB-T) protein level was increased in the RN, FC, substantia nigra and Ht. The TrkB-FL/TrkB-T ratio was significantly decreased in highly aggressive rats suggesting TrkB-T is predominant in highly aggressive rats. The p75NTR expression was slightly changed in majority of studied brain structures of aggressive rats. The data indicate the BDNF system in the brain of aggressive and nonaggressive animals is extremely different at all levels, from transcription to reception, suggesting significant role of BDNF system in the development of highly aggressive phenotype.

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