Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) regulates Rab5-positive early endosomes in hippocampal neurons to induce dendritic branching

Guillermo Moya-Alvarado, Andres Gonzalez, Nicolas Stuardo, Francisca C. Bronfman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Neurotrophin receptors use endosomal pathways for signaling in neurons. However, how neurotrophins regulate the endosomal system for proper signaling is unknown. Rabs are monomeric GTPases that act as molecular switches to regulate membrane trafficking by binding a wide range of effectors. Among the Rab GTPases, Rab5 is the key GTPase regulating early endosomes and is the first sorting organelle of endocytosed receptors. The objective of our work was to study the regulation of Rab5-positive endosomes by BDNF at different levels, including dynamic, activity and protein levels in hippocampal neurons. Short-term treatment with BDNF increased the colocalization of TrkB in dendrites and cell bodies, increasing the vesiculation of Rab5-positive endosomes. Consistently, BDNF increased the number and mobility of Rab5 endosomes in dendrites. Cell body fluorescence recovery after photobleaching of Rab-EGFP-expressing neurons suggested increased movement of Rab5 endosomes from dendrites to cell bodies. These results correlated with the BDNF-induced activation of Rab5 in dendrites, followed by increased activation of Rab5 in cell bodies. Long-term treatment of hippocampal neurons with BDNF increased the protein levels of Rab5 and Rab11 in an mTOR-dependent manner. While BDNF regulation of Rab5a levels occurred at both the transcriptional and translational levels, Rab11a levels were regulated at the translational level at the time points analyzed. Finally, expression of a dominant-negative mutant of Rab5 reduced the basal arborization of nontreated neurons, and although BDNF was partially able to rescue the effect of Rab5DN at the level of primary dendrites, BDNF-induced dendritic branching was largely reduced. Our findings indicate that BDNF regulates the Rab5-Rab11 endosomal system at different levels and that these processes are likely required for BDNF-induced dendritic branching.

Original languageEnglish
Article number493
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • BDNF
  • Dendritic branching
  • Endosomes
  • Neuron
  • Neurotrophins
  • Rab11
  • Rab5
  • TrkB

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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