The diffusible factors, nitric oxide (NO) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are both suggested to be intercellular messengers that have similar synaptic activities and developmental influences in the brain. In the present study, we have analysed their mutual regulation with respect to their production in rodent neocortical neurons. Some of the cultured rat neocortical neurons exhibited immunoreactivity for both neuronal NO synthase (NOS) and the BDNF receptor trkB. Neuronal NOS appeared to be activated autonomously and produced NO in culture as monitored by nitrite accumulation. Inhibition of the endogenous NO production in culture by a NOS inhibitor, N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMMA), enhanced basal expression of BDNF mRNA and protein. Similarly, cerebroventricular administration of another NOS inhibitor, N-ω-nitro-L-arginine methylester (L-NAME), but not D-NAME or saline, increased BDNF content in the neocortex. In the opposite direction, however, BDNF appeared to function as a positive regulator for NO synthesis. Addition of BDNF upregulated the neuronal NOS expression as well as NO production in neocortical culture. In agreement, BDNF knock-out mice exhibited significant impairment of neuronal NOS expression in the neocortex. Taken together, these observations suggest that the trans-synaptic signalling molecules, NO and BDNF, influence the production of each other and mutually regulate the strength of their intercellular communications.
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