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Lactational zinc deficiency-induced hippocampal neuronal apoptosis by a BDNF-independent TrkB signaling pathway.

Xu H, Gao HL, Zheng W, Xin N, Chi ZH, Bai SL, Wang ZY. (2010) Hippocampus Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print]  

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It is well-known that zinc deficiency leads to neuronal death in the brain. Here we tested the hypothesis that changes in the TrkB signaling pathway are involved in hippocampal neuronal apoptosis of suckling offspring with maternal zinc deficiency.

Postpartum mice were fed a zinc-deficient (0.85 ppm) diet and their offspring were used as a lactational zinc deficiency mouse model. At P7, P14, and P21, changes in hippocampal neuronal apoptosis were assessed by Nissl and TUNEL staining. BDNF levels and TrkB neurotrophic signaling were examined using immunoblotting assay.

Lactational zinc deficiency resulted in lower levels of p-TrkB and p-ERK, and higher levels of Bax/Bcl-2 and caspase-3 in the hippocampus, suggesting that zinc deficiency-induced low levels of TrkB phosphorylation would abrogate the downstream ERK signaling pathway, leading to hippocampal neuronal apoptosis. Most interestingly, our data showed that the activity of Src, a key molecule for zinc-induced TrkB activation through the BDNF-independent pathway, was inhibited significantly, and the expression levels of BDNF were significantly increased in the hippocampus of suckling mice.

The present data indicate that zinc depletion-induced hippocampal neuronal apoptosis is likely through modulation of the TrkB neurotrophic signaling pathway by a BDNF-independent and Src-dependent mechanism, whereas higher expression of BDNF is considered as a protective response, which cannot fully compensate for the injury caused by maternal zinc deficiency. (c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.