Increase of BDNF serum concentration during donepezil treatment of patients with early Alzheimer’s disease

  • T. LeyheEmail author
  • Elke Stransky
  • G. W. Eschweiler
  • G. Buchkremer
  • C. Laske


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be treated with inhibitors of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Recent pre-clinical and clinical studies gave evidence that AChE-inhibitors have neuroprotective effects and thereby a disease-modifying potential. The mechanism of this action is still discussed. In an animal model oral administration of an AChE-inhibitor lead to an increase of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in hippocampus and cortex. Recent studies have found a decrease of BDNF in the serum and brain of AD patients with potentially consecutive lack of neurotrophic support and contribution to progressive neurodegeneration. BDNF serum concentrations were assessed by ELISA in 19 AD patients and 20 age-matched healthy controls at baseline and in the AD patients after 15 months of treatment with donepezil 10 mg per day (one patient received just 5 mg). Before treatment with donepezil we found in AD significantly decreased BDNF serum concentrations (19.2 ± 3.7 ng/ml) as compared to healthy controls (23.2 ± 6.0 ng/ml, P = 0.015). After 15 months of treatment the BDNF serum concentration increased significantly in the AD patients (23.6 ± 7.0 ng/ml, P = 0.001) showing no more difference to the healthy controls (P = 0.882). The results of the present study confirm data of prior investigations that a down-regulation of BDNF in serum and brain of AD patients seems to begin with the first clinical symptoms and to be persistent. A treatment with the AChE-inhibitor donepezil is accompanied with an increase of BDNF serum concentration in AD patients reaching the level of healthy controls. Thus, up-regulation of BDNF might be part of a neuroprotective effect of AChE-inhibitors. The molecular mechanism of this potentially disease-modifying mechanism of action of donepezil should be clarified.

Key words

BDNF donepezil acetylcholinesterase-inhibitor neuroprotection 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Leyhe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Elke Stransky
    • 1
  • G. W. Eschweiler
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Buchkremer
    • 1
  • C. Laske
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Geriatric Center at the University of TübingenTübingenGermany

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