BDNF and its receptors in human myasthenic thymus: Implications for cell fate in thymic pathology

Angela Berzi, C. Korcan Ayata, Paola Cavalcante, Chiara Falcone, Elisabetta Candiago, Teresio Motta, Pia Bernasconi, Reinhard Hohlfeld, Renato Mantegazza, Edgar Meinl, Cinthia Farina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we show that in myasthenic thymus several cell types, including thymic epithelial cells (TEC) and immune cells, were the source and the target of the neurotrophic factor brain-derived growth factor (BDNF). Interestingly, many actively proliferating medullary thymocytes expressed the receptor TrkB in vivo in involuted thymus, while this population was lost in hyperplastic or neoplastic thymuses. Furthermore, in hyperplastic thymuses the robust coordinated expression of BDNF in the germinal centers together with the receptor p75NTR on all proliferating B cells strongly suggests that this factor regulates germinal center reaction. Finally, all TEC dying of apoptosis expressed BDNF receptors, indicating that this neurotrophin is involved in TEC turnover. In thymomas both BDNF production and receptor expression in TEC were strongly hindered. This may represent an attempt of tumour escape from cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroimmunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2008


  • Germinal center
  • Hyperplasia
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Neurotrophic factor
  • Thymoma
  • Thymus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Neurology


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