Brain derived neurotrophic factor is an endothelial cell survival factor required for intramyocardial vessel stabilization

M. J. Donovan, M. I. Lin, P. Wiegn, T. Ringstedt, R. Kraemer, R. Hahn, S. Wang, C. F. Ibanez, S. Rafii, B. L. Hempstead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

342 Scopus citations


Brain derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF, is a neurotrophin best characterized for its survival and differentiative effects on neurons expressing the trk B receptor tyrosine kinase. Although many of these neurons are lost in the BDNF(-/-) mouse, the early postnatal lethality of these animals suggests a wider function for this growth factor. Here, we demonstrate that deficient expression of BDNF impairs the survival of endothelial cells in intramyocardial arteries and capillaries in the early postnatal period, although the embryonic vasculature can remodel into arteries, capillaries and veins. BDNF deficiency results in a reduction in endothelial cell-cell contacts and in endothelial cell apoptosis, leading to intraventricular wall hemorrhage, depressed cardiac contractility and early postnatal death. Vascular hemorrhage is restricted to cardiac vessels, reflecting the localized expression of BDNF and trk B by capillaries and arterioles in this vascular bed. Conversely, ectopic BDNF overexpression in midgestational mouse hearts results in an increase in capillary density. Moreover, BDNF activation of endogenous trk B receptors supports the survival of cardiac microvascular endothelial cells cultured from neonatal mice. These results establish an essential role for BDNF in maintaining vessel stability in the heart through direct angiogenic actions on endothelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4531-4540
Number of pages10
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2000


  • Angiogenesis
  • Brain derived neurotrophic factor
  • Endothelial cell
  • Mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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