Pegylated brain-derived neurotrophic factor shows improved distribution into the spinal cord and stimulates locomotor activity and morphological changes after injury

D P Ankeny, D M McTigue, Z Guan, Q Yan, O Kinstler, B T Stokes, L B Jakeman
Experimental Neurology 2001, 170 (1): 85-100
The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) shows promise for the treatment of central nervous system (CNS) trauma and disease. Effective delivery methods are required, however, for BDNF to be useful as a therapeutic agent. To this end, we examined the penetration of intrathecally infused N-terminal pegylated BDNF (peg-BDNF) compared to similar infusion of native BDNF after spinal cord injury (SCI). Pegylation dramatically improved delivery of BDNF to the spinal cord and induced the expression of Fos in spinal cord neurons. To test whether enhanced delivery would improve the modest effects on behavioral recovery and axonal outgrowth observed with native BDNF infusion, we assessed the efficacy of 2-week 25 microg/day peg-BDNF treatment, beginning 12-24 h (early) or 15 days (delayed) after midthoracic spinal contusion. Similar to native BDNF, early treatment with peg-BDNF accelerated the recovery of stepping in the open-field and acutely stimulated locomotor central pattern generator activity, as seen by the activation of hindlimb airstepping during either period of administration. The infusion of peg-BDNF, regardless of the timing of delivery, was related to enhanced sprouting of putative cholinergic fibers, like that observed after high dose native BDNF treatment. Despite improved delivery, however, neither axonal responses nor the extent of locomotor recovery were enhanced compared to native BDNF treatment. This suggests that alternative strategies, such as neurotrophin treatment in conjunction with cell transplantation techniques, or treatment nearer the cell bodies of target neurons might be employed in an attempt to effect significant repair after SCI.

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