Microglia are intrinsic immune cells that release factors including pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, nitric oxide (NO) and neurotrophins following activation in the brain. Elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) is important for microglial functions, such as the release of cytokines or NO from activated microglia. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin well known for its roles in the activation of microglia. Interestingly, proBDNF, the precursor form of mature BDNF, and mature BDNF elicit opposing neuronal responses in the brain. Mature BDNF induces sustained intracellular Ca2+ elevation through the upregulation of the surface expression of TRPC3 channels in rodent microglial cells. In addition, TRPC3 channels are important for the BDNF-induced suppression of NO production in activated microglia. In this study, we observed that proBDNF and mature BDNF have opposite effects on the relative expression of surface p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) in rodent microglial cells. ProBDNF induces a sustained elevation of [Ca2+]i through binding to the p75NTR, which is possibly mediated by Rac 1 activation and TRPM7 channels in rodent microglial cells. Flow cytometry showed that proBDNF increased the relative surface expression of TRPM7. Although proBDNF did not affect either mRNA expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines or the phagocytic activity, proBDNF potentiates the generation of NO induced by IFN-γ and TRPM7 channels could be involved in the proBDNF-induced potentiation of IFN-γ-mediated production of NO. We show direct evidence that rodent microglial cells are able to respond to proBDNF, which might be important for the regulation of inflammatory responses in the brain.
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