Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction and schizophrenia may all have something to do with brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This protein was thought to be needed simply for the proliferation, maturation and survival of neurons. But Pierre Sokoloff of the Unité de Neurobiologie et Pharmacologie Moleculaire, Paris, France, and colleagues now report (Nature, Vol. 411, No. 6833, 03 May 2001) that BDNF also boosts the expression of a molecule, the D3 receptor, that allows neurons to respond to dopamine.
Nerve cells in many parts of the brain communicate using dopamine. Dopamine-dependent neuronal pathways are thought to be defective in several brain disorders. "Given that such pathways have so many roles in neurological and psychiatric disorders, the implications of these findings may be extensive," says Francis J. White of the Finch University of Health Sciences, Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, Illinois, in an accompanying News and Views article.
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