Mice engineered to mimic a common Val66Met polymorphism in the BDNF gene show greater sensitivity to reversal in environmental contingencies

A common human polymorphism in the gene that encodes brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), Val66Met, is considered a marker of vulnerability for mental health issues and has been associated with cognitive impairment. An alternate framework has been proposed in which “risk alleles” are reinterpreted as “plasticity alleles” that confer vulnerability in adverse environments and positive effects in neutral or positive environments (Belsky et al., 2009). These frameworks produce divergent predictions for tests of learning and cognitive flexibility. Here, we examined multiple aspects of learning and cognitive flexibility in a relatively new BDNF Val66Met mouse model (BDNF Val68Met, Warnault et al., 2016), including multiple choice discrimination and reversal, go/no-go learning and reversal, and appetitive extinction learning. We found that mice homozygous for the Met allele show more efficient reversal learning in two different paradigms, but learn at rates comparable to Val homozygotes on the multiple choice discrimination task, a go/no-go task, and in appetitive extinction. Our results dissociate reversal performance from go/no-go learning and appetitive extinction and support the plasticity allele framework that suggests BDNF Met carriers are potentially more sensitive to changes in the environment.

Angela Vandenberg, Wan Chen Lin, Lung-Hao Tai, Dorit Ron, Linda Wilbrecht, Mice engineered to mimic a common Val66Met polymorphism in the BDNF gene show greater sensitivity to reversal in environmental contingencies, 34 Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 34–41 (2018)

Mice engineered to mimic a common Val66Met polymorphism in the BDNF gene show greater sensitivity to reversal in environmental contingencies2019-02-02T21:38:12+00:00

The BDNF Val68 to Met Polymorphism Increases Compulsive Alcohol Drinking In Mice Which Is Reversed By TrkB Activation


The Val66 to Met polymorphism within the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) sequence reduces activity-dependent BDNF release, and is associated with psychiatric disorders in humans. Alcoholism is one of the most prevalent psychiatric diseases. Here, we tested the hypothesis that this polymorphism increases the severity of alcohol abuse disorders.


We generated transgenic mice carrying the mouse homolog of the human Met66BDNF allele (Met68BDNF), and used alcohol-drinking paradigms in combination with viral-mediated gene delivery and pharmacology.


We found that Met68BDNF mice consumed excessive amounts of alcohol and continued to drink despite negative consequences, a hallmark of addiction. Importantly, compulsive alcohol intake was reversed by overexpression of the wild-type Val68BDNF allele in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the Met68BDNF mice, or by systemic administration of the TrkB agonist, LM22A-4.


Our findings suggest that carrying the Met66BDNF allele increases the risk of developing uncontrolled and excessive alcohol drinking that can be reversed by directly activating the BDNF receptor, TrkB. Importantly, this work identifies a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of compulsive alcohol drinking in humans carrying the Met66BDNF allele.

Vincent Warnault, Emmanuel Darcq, Nadege Morisot, Khanhky Phamluong, Linda Wilbrecht, Stephen M. Massa, Frank M. Longo, and Dorit Ron, The BDNF Val68 to Met Polymorphism Increases Compulsive Alcohol Drinking In Mice Which Is Reversed By TrkB Activation. Biological Psychiatry

The BDNF Val68 to Met Polymorphism Increases Compulsive Alcohol Drinking In Mice Which Is Reversed By TrkB Activation2015-05-28T06:39:54+00:00

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