Transcription of Bdnf is controlled by multiple promoters, which drive expression of multiple transcripts encoding for the same protein. Promoter IV contributes significantly to activity-dependent brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) transcription. We have generated promoter IV mutant mice (BDNF-KIV) by inserting a GFP-STOP cassette within the Bdnf exon IV locus. This genetic manipulation results in disruption of promoter IV-mediated Bdnf expression. BDNF-KIV animals exhibited significant deficits in GABAergic interneurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), particularly those expressing parvalbumin, a subtype implicated in executive function and schizophrenia. Moreover, disruption of promoter IV-driven Bdnf transcription impaired inhibitory but not excitatory synaptic transmission recorded from layer V pyramidal neurons in the PFC. The attenuation of GABAergic inputs resulted in an aberrant appearance of spike-timing-dependent synaptic potentiation (STDP) in PFC slices derived from BDNF-KIV, but not wild-type littermates. These results demonstrate the importance of promoter IV-dependent Bdnf transcription in GABAergic function and reveal an unexpected regulation of STDP in the PFC by BDNF.
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