ERK1/2 and ERK5 have distinct roles in the regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression

Chang Su, Wendy Underwood, Nataliya Rybalchenko, Meharvan Singh

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26 Scopus citations


Neurotrophins play essential roles in the development, differentiation, and survival of neuronal and nonneuronal cells. Alterations in neurotrophin expression have been implicated in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. Dysregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been implicated in deficits of long-term potentiation and cognition and may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In this study, we used complementary pharmacological and molecular approaches to evaluate the role of ERK1/2 and ERK5, two members of the MAPK pathway associated with neuroprotection, in regulating BDNF expression in C6 glial cells and primary astrocytes. Our data revealed that U0126, an inhibitor of both ERK5 and ERK1/2, increased the levels of BDNF mRNA, whereas the MEK1/2-specific inhibitor PD184352 did not, suggesting that ERK5 exerts negative control over BDNF expression. This was supported by experiments in which RNAi-mediated depletion of ERK5 led to an increase in BDNF. In contrast, transfection with constitutively active MEK5 resulted in an inhibition of BDNF expression, confirming the inhibitory role of ERK5 in the regulation of BDNF. Interestingly, transfection with the dominant active mutant of MEK1 (MEKR4F), the upstream activator of ERK1/2, resulted in a modest increase in BDNF levels. Collectively, our data suggest that ERK5 and ERK1/2 exert opposite effects on BDNF expression and support the hypothesis that an imbalance of these two signaling pathways may contribute to the pathology of diseases in which neurotrophin dysregulation is noted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1542-1550
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
  • ERK1/2
  • ERK5
  • Transcription


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