J Neuroinflammation. 2017 Aug 4;14(1):156. doi: 10.1186/s12974-017-0930-6.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor reduces inflammation and hippocampal apoptosis in experimental Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis.

Xu D1, Lian D1, Wu J1, Liu Y2, Zhu M3, Sun J3, He D1, Li L4.

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Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis is a serious inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) and is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates. The inflammatory processes initiated by recognition of bacterial components contribute to apoptosis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has long been recommended for the treatment of CNS diseases due to its powerful neuro-survival properties, as well as its recently reported anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic effects in vitro and in vivo.


In this study, we investigated the effects of BDNF-related signaling on the inflammatory response and hippocampal apoptosis in experimental models of pneumococcal meningitis. Pretreatment with exogenous BDNF or the tropomyosin-receptor kinase B (TrkB) inhibitor k252a was performed to assess the activation or inhibition of the BDNF/TrkB-signaling axis prior to intracisternal infection with live S. pneumoniae. At 24 h post-infection, rats were assessed for clinical severity and sacrificed to harvest the brains. Paraffin-embedded brain sections underwent hematoxylin and eosin staining to evaluate pathological severity, and cytokine and chemokine levels in the hippocampus and cortex were evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Additionally, apoptotic neurons were detected in the hippocampal dentate gyrus by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP-nick-end labeling, key molecules associated with the related signaling pathway were analyzed by real-time polymerase chain reaction and western blot, and the DNA-binding activity of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) was measured by electrophoretic mobility shift assay.


Rats administered BDNF exhibited reduced clinical impairment, pathological severity, and hippocampal apoptosis. Furthermore, BDNF pretreatment suppressed the expression of inflammatory factors, including tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin (IL)-1β, and IL-6, and increased the expression of the anti-inflammatory factor IL-10. Moreover, BDNF pretreatment increased TrkB expression, activated downstream phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (AKT) signaling, and inhibited the myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88)/NF-κB-signaling pathway.


These data suggested that BDNF administration exerted anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic effects on an experimental pneumococcal meningitis model via modulation of MyD88/NF-κB- and PI3K/AKT-signaling pathways. Our results indicated that treatment with exogenous BDNF might constitute a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of bacterial meningitis.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Hippocampal apoptosis; Neuroinflammation; Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis

PMID: 28778220 PMCID: PMC5545027 DOI: 10.1186/s12974-017-0930-6