Expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its cognate receptor, TrkB, in the rat suprachiasmatic nucleus.
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Photic entrainment of mammalian circadian rhythms occurs because the pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus is endowed with a rhythmic sensitivity to photic signals conveyed by the retinohypothalamic tract. Since brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been implicated in the functional modulation of other retinal targets, the rat SCN was examined for expression and cellular distribution of this neurotrophin and TrkB, the tyrosine kinase receptor that preferentially binds BDNF. The rat SCN was found to express the mature BDNF peptide and mRNA by Western blotting, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses. BDNF-immunoreactivity and hybridization signal for its mRNA were coextensively localized within a number of SCN cells throughout the rostrocaudal axis of each nucleus. In addition, some cells intercalated within the optic chiasm were distinguished by expression of BDNF immunoreactivity or mRNA. Immunostaining for the TrkB receptor was also evident in the SCN within terminals or fibers predominantly located along the SCN/optic chiasm interface and within scattered perikarya near the medial border of each nucleus. Combined in situ hybridization and immunocytochemical analysis revealed that BDNF mRNA-expressing cells within the ventrolateral SCN were often closely apposed to TrkB-positive fibers extending from the optic chiasm. These findings raise the possibility that target-derived interactions between BDNF and TrkB receptors could play a role in the circadian modulation of SCN pacemaker sensitivity to photic input transmitted by the retinohypothalamic tract.