Local delivery of brain‐derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by genetically modified cells provides the unique opportunity to examine the effects of BDNF on adult dopaminergic and cholinergic neurons in vivo. Primary rat fibroblasts were genetically engineered to produce BDNF. Conditioned media from BDNF‐transduced fibroblasts supported embryonic chick dorsal root ganglion neurons as well as rat fetal mesencephalic neurons. BDNF‐transduced fibroblasts grafted to the rat brain survived and showed continued mRNA production for at least 2 weeks. The effects of BDNF‐transduced fibroblast grafts on the dopaminergic and cholinergic systems were then assessed. BDNF‐transduced fibroblasts grafted into the normal intact substantia nigra induced sprouting of tyrosine hydroxylase‐ and neurofilamentimmunoreactive fibers into the graft. Fibroblast grafts implanted into the normal intact striatum and midbrain as well as the 6‐hydroxydopamine‐lesioned brain did not induce sprouting of dopaminergic fibers; neither did they affect drug‐induced rotational behavior. BDNF‐transduced fibroblasts did, however, significantly increase the homovanillic acid/dopamine ratio when grafted into the normal midbrain. Following transection of the fimbriafornix, BDNF‐transduced fibroblasts grafted into the septum were unable to rescue the septal cholinergic population, as did nerve growth factor‐producing fibroblast grafts. Genetically modified fibroblast grafts may provide an effective, localized method of BDNF delivery in vivo to test biological effects of this factor on the central nervous system. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
- neurotrophic factor
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