Brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling rewrites the glucocorticoid transcriptome via glucocorticoid receptor phosphorylation
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
Abnormal glucocorticoid and neurotrophin signaling has been implicated in numerous psychiatric disorders. However, the impact of neurotrophic signaling on glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-dependent gene expression is not understood. We therefore examined the impact of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling on GR transcriptional regulatory function by gene expression profiling in primary rat cortical neurons stimulated with the selective GR agonist dexamethasone (Dex) and BDNF, alone or in combination. Simultaneous treatment with BDNF and Dex elicited a unique set of GR-responsive genes associated with neuronal growth and differentiation and also enhanced the induction of a large number of Dex-sensitive genes. BDNF via its receptor TrkB enhanced the transcriptional activity of a synthetic GR reporter, suggesting a direct effect of BDNF signaling on GR function. Indeed, BDNF treatment induces the phosphorylation of GR at serine 155 (S155) and serine 287 (S287). Expression of a nonphosphorylatable mutant (GR S155A/S287A) impaired the induction of a subset of BDNF- and Dex-regulated genes. Mechanistically, BDNF-induced GR phosphorylation increased GR occupancy and cofactor recruitment at the promoter of a BDNF-enhanced gene. GR phosphorylation in vivo is sensitive to changes in the levels of BDNF and TrkB as well as stress. Therefore, BDNF signaling specifies and amplifies the GR transcriptome through a coordinated GR phosphorylation-dependent detection mechanism.