Neurotrophins as mediators of drug effects on mood, addiction, and neuroprotection
- Cite this article as:
- Castrén, E. Mol Neurobiol (2004) 29: 289. doi:10.1385/MN:29:3:289
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The induction of synthesis or release of endogenous neurotrophic factors in the brain by low-molecular-weight drugs could be a feasible alternative for the direct administration of neurotrophic factors for the treatment of central nervous system disorders. Recent data suggest that several drugs already in clinical use increase the synthesis, release, or signaling of neurotrophins. Antidepressant drugs increase the synthesis and signaling of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and BDNF signaling appears to be both sufficient and necessary for the antidepressant-induced behavioral effects. Furthermore, neurotrophins and other neurotrophic factors play a role in the acute and chronic responses produced by addictive drugs. Moreover, several neuroprotective drugs influence neurotrophin synthesis or signaling, although the significance of these effects is still unclear. These findings reveal a wider role for neurotrophic factors in drug action than has previously been expected, and they suggest that neurotrophin-induced trophic responses in neuronal connectivity and plasticity may be involved in the mechanism of action of several classes of CNS drugs. Improved assay systems are needed for the systematic screening of the effects of putative neuroprotective drugs on the synthesis, release, and signaling of neurotrophic factors, and for the evaluation of the functional role of these factors in the action of novel drug candidates.