A polymorphism associated with depressive disorders differentially regulates brain derived neurotrophic factor promoter IV activity

Benjamin Hing, Scott Davidson, Marissa Lear, Gerome Breen, John Quinn, Peter McGuffin, Alasdair MacKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Changes in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression have been associated with mood disorders and cognitive dysfunction. Transgenic models that overexpress or underexpress BDNF demonstrate similar deficits in cognition and mood. We explored the hypothesis that BDNF expression is controlled by balancing the activity of BDNF promoter IV (BP4) with a negative regulatory region containing a polymorphism associated with cognitive dysfunction and mood disorders.

METHODS: We used comparative genomics, transgenic mouse production, and magnetofection of primary neurons with luciferase reporters and signal transduction agonist treatments to identify novel polymorphic cis-regulatory regions that control BP4 activity.

RESULTS: We show that BP4 is active in the hippocampus, the cortex, and the amygdala and responds strongly to stimuli such as potassium chloride, lithium chloride, and protein kinase C agonists. We also identified a highly conserved sequence 21 kilobase 5' of BP4 that we called BE5.2, which contains rs12273363, a polymorphism associated with decreased BDNF expression, mood disorders, and cognitive decline. BE5.2 modulated the ability of BP4 to respond to different stimuli. Intriguingly, the rarer disease associated allele, BE5.2(C), acted as a significantly stronger repressor of BP4 activity than the more common BE5.2(T) allele.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the C allele of rs12273363, which is associated with mood disorder, modulates BP4 activity in an allele-specific manner following cell depolarization or the combined activity of protein kinase A and protein kinase C pathways. The relevance of these findings to the role of BDNF misexpression in mood disorders and cognitive decline is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-626
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

PMCID: PMC3712170


  • BDNF promoter IV
  • brain derived neurotrophic factor
  • cognitive deficit and mood disorder
  • neuronal depolarization
  • single nucleotide polymorphisms
  • tissue specific gene regulation


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