BDNF profoundly and specifically increases KCNQ4 expression in neurons derived from embryonic stem cells.
Neurons resembling the spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) of the auditory nerve can be generated from embryonic stem cells through induced overexpression of the transcription factor Neurogenin-1 (Neurog1). While recapitulating this developmental pathway produces glutamatergic, bipolar neurons reminiscent of SGNs, these neurons are functionally immature, being characterized by a depolarized resting potential and limited excitability. We explored the effects of two neurotrophins known to be present in the inner ear, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), on the electrophysiology of neurons following Neurog1 induction. Our data reveal a significant reduction in resting membrane potential (RMP) following neurotrophin exposure, with BDNF producing a more robust effect than NT-3. This effect was accompanied by a profound and specific upregulation of the KCNQ4 subtype, where a 9-fold increase was observed with quantitative PCR. The other neuronally expressed KCNQ subtypes (2, 3, and 5) exhibited upregulation which was 3-fold or less in magnitude. Quantitative immunohistochemistry confirmed the increase in KCNQ4 expression at the protein level. The present data show a novel link between BDNF and KCNQ4 expression, yielding insight into the restricted expression pattern of a channel known to play special roles in setting the resting potential of auditory cells and in the etiology of progressive high-frequency hearing loss.
Purcell, EK; Yang, A; Liu, L; Velkey, JM; Morales, MM; Duncan, RK
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