Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a critical role in cognitive processes including learning and memory. However, it has been difficult to detect BDNF in the brains of behaving animals because of its extremely low concentration, i.e., at the sub-nanogram/mL level. Here, we developed an interdigitated microelectrode (IME) biosensor coated with an anti-BDNF an anti-BDNF antibody in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based microfluidic channel chip. This sensor could detect BDNF from microliter volumes of liquid samples even at femtogram/mL concentrations with high selectivity over other growth factors. Using this biosensor, we examined whether BDNF is detectable from periodical collection of cerebrospinal fluid microdialysate, sampled every 10 min from the hippocampus of mice during the context-dependent fear-conditioning test. We found that the IME biosensor could detect a significant increase in BDNF levels after the memory task. This increase in BDNF levels was prevented by gene silencing of BDNF, indicating that the IME biosensor reliably detected BDNF in vivo. We propose that the IME biosensor provides a general-purpose probe for ultrasensitive detection of biomolecules with low abundance in the brains of behaving animals.
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