Changes in nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3 messenger RNA expression in the rat hippocampus following 20 min of transient forebrain ischemia were evaluated using Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization histochemistry. Twelve hours after the insult, the level of nerve growth factor messenger RNA increased markedly in the granular cell layer of the dentate gyrus and by day 2 returned to control levels. The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA showed a persistent and moderate increase. The highest expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA was seen in the dentate granule cells on day 2 after the insult, and then the expression returned to the control levels. At 2 days post-ischemia, contents of messenger RNAs for nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor were reduced in the CA1 region, which may represent delayed loss of vulnerable CA1 pyramidal neurons. In contrast to brain-derived neurotrophic factor and nerve growth factor messenger RNA expression, the level of neurotrophin-3 messenger RNA declined in the CA1, the CA2 and the dentate granular layer immediately after ischemie insult. In the CA1 region, the reduced expression persisted for at least seven days, but in the dentate gyrus, neurotrophin-3 messenger RNA expression returned to the control levels after two days of post-ischemic recovery. These results suggest that nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3 genes are differentially regulated and that each of their gene products may play different roles in the central nervous system under pathophysiological conditions.
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