Channels formed by the transient receptor potential (TRP) family of proteins have a variety of physiological functions. Here we report that two members of the TRP cation channel (TRPC) subfamily, TRPC3 and 6, protected cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs) against serum deprivation–induced cell death in cultures and promoted CGN survival in rat brain. In CGN cultures, blocking TRPC channels or downregulating TRPC3 or 6 suppressed brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)–mediated protection, BDNFtriggered intracellular Ca2+ elevation and BDNF-induced CREB activation. By contrast, overexpressing TRPC3 or 6 increased CREB-dependent reporter gene transcription and prevented apoptosis in the neurons deprived of serum, and this protection was blocked by the dominant negative form of CREB. Furthermore, downregulating TRPC3 or 6 induced CGN apoptosis in neonatal rat
cerebellum, and this effect was rescued by overexpressing either TRPC3 or 6. Thus, our findings provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that TRPC channels are important in promoting neuronal survival.