Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) critically controls the fate and function of the neuronal network and has received much attention as a target of many brain diseases. Dopaminergic system dysfunction has also been implicated in a variety of neuropsychiatric diseases. Rotigotine, a non-ergot dopamine receptor agonist, is used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. To investigate the effects of rotigotine on neuronal functions both in vivo and in vitro, rats and primary cortical neurons were administered rotigotine, and the mRNA and protein expression levels of BDNF, its receptor TrkB and downstream signaling molecules, and synaptic proteins were determined. We found that BDNF protein was increased in the cortex and hippocampus of rats after 7 days of rotigotine treatment. In contrast, BDNF mRNAs were reduced 6 h after rotigotine treatment in cultured neurons presumably through the transient suppression of neuronal activity. We identified differential expression of D1, D2, and D3 receptors in the rat brain and cultured neurons. The observed increase in the expression of BDNF protein in the cortex and hippocampus after subchronic administration of rotigotine suggests that it may exert its medical effect in part through improving BDNF function in the brain. In addition, our results highlight the complex relationships between rotigotine and BDNF expression, which depend on the brain region, time course, and dose of the drug.
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