BDNF overexpression induces differential increases among subsets of sympathetic innervation in murine back skin

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Besides their recognized dependence on nerve growth factor (NGF) during development, the dependence of mature sympathetic ganglion neurons on other neurotrophins is still unclear. Here, we have investigated the sympathetic innervation of back skin in mice overexpressing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) under the alpha-myosin heavy-chain promoter, as well as in BDNF knockout (–/–) mice. Compared with wild-type controls, the dorsal skin of BDNF overexpressing mice displayed a significantly enhanced number of adrenergic, tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive (IR) nerve fibres, while cholinergic or peptidergic sensory nerve fibres appeared unaltered. The adrenergic hyperinnervation in dorsal skin of BDNF overexpressing mice was most pronounced in the arrector pili muscle of hair follicles, while no increase of tyrosine hydroxylase-or neuropeptide Y-IR fibres associated with subcutaneous blood vessels was found. Instead, back skin of BDNF knockout (–/–) mice contained significantly fewer tyrosine hydroxylase-IR dermal nerve fibres than wild-type animals. This suggests that BDNF plays an important role in the control of different subsets of adrenergic innervation in murine back skin, and indicates that paravertebral sympathetic ganglia display a previously unrecognized differential BDNF-dependence in vivo.

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