Neurotrophin signaling has been implicated in the processes of synapse formation and plasticity. To gain additional insight into the mechanism of BDNF and TrkB influence on synapse formation and synaptic plasticity, we generated a conditional knock-out for TrkB using the cre/loxp system. Using three different cre-expressing transgenic mice, three unique spatial and temporal configurations of TrkB deletion were obtained with regard to the hippocampal Schaffer collateral synapse. We compare synapse formation in mutants in which TrkB is ablated either in presynaptic or in both presynaptic and postsynaptic cells at early developmental or postdevelopmental time points. Our results indicate a requirement for TrkB at both the presynaptic and postsynaptic sites during development. In the absence of TrkB, synapse numbers were significantly reduced. In vivo ablation of TrkB after synapse formation did not affect synapse numbers. In primary hippocampal cultures, deletion of TrkB in only the postsynaptic cell, before synapse formation, also resulted in deficits of synapse formation. We conclude that TrkB signaling has a cell-autonomous role required for normal development of both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of the Schaffer collateral synapse.
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