BACKGROUND: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is essential for neurogenesis and has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, few studies have investigated together the epigenetic, transcriptional, and translational regulation of this peptide in the brain in relation to AD.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate mechanisms underlying how BDNF is possibly dysregulated in the brain in relation to aging and AD neuropathology.
METHODS: Prefrontal cortex tissues were acquired from the Manchester Brain Bank (N = 67). BDNF exon I, and exon IV-containing transcripts and total long 3' transcript gene expression were determined by quantitative PCR and bisulfite pyrosequencing was used to quantify DNA methylation within promoters I and IV. Protein concentrations were quantified via ELISA.
RESULTS: BDNF exon IV and total long 3' isoform gene expression levels negatively associated with donor's age at death (IV: r = -0.291, p = 0.020; total: r = -0.354, p = 0.004). Expression of BDNF exon I- containing isoform was significantly higher in Met-carriers of the rs6265 variant, compared to Val-homozygotes, when accounting for donor ages (F = 6.455, p = 0.014). BDNF total long 3' transcript expression was significantly lower in those with early AD neuropathology, compared to those without any neuropathology (p = 0.021). There were no associations between BDNF promoter I and IV methylation or protein levels with ages, rs6265 genotype or AD neuropathology status.
CONCLUSION: Prefrontal cortex BDNF gene expression is associated with aging, rs6265 carrier status, and AD neuropathology in a variant-specific manner that seems to be independent of DNA methylation influences.