Like the liver or other peripheral organs, two regions of the adult brain possess the ability of self-renewal through a process called neurogenesis. This raises tremendous hope for repairing the damaged brain and has stimulated research on identifying signals controlling neurogenesis. Neurogenesis involves several stages from fate determination to synaptic integration via proliferation, migration, and maturation. While fate determination primarily depends on a genetic signature, other stages are controlled by the interplay between genes and micro-environmental signals. Here, we propose that neurotransmitters are master regulators of the different stages of neurogenesis. In favor of this idea, a description of selective neurotransmitter signaling and their functions in the largest neurogenic zone, the subventricular zone (SVZ), is provided. In particular, we emphasize the interactions between neuroblasts and astrocyte-like cells that release gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, respectively. However, we also raise several limitations to our knowledge on neurotransmitters in neurogenesis. The function of neurotransmitters in vivo remains largely unexplored. Neurotransmitter signaling has been viewed as uniform which dramatically contrasts with the cellular and molecular mosaic nature of the SVZ. How neurotransmitters are integrated with other well-conserved molecules, such as sonic hedgehog, is poorly understood. In an effort to reconcile these differences, we discuss how specificity of neurotransmitter functions can be provided through their multitude of receptors and intracellular pathways in different cell types, and their possible interactions with sonic hedgehog.
Keywords: SVZ, adult neurogenesis, neurotransmitter, GABA, sonic hedgehog, wnt, glutamatergic signaling, vesicular release, astrocytes, glial cell, development, proliferation, survival, GLAST, glutamate transporter, dopamine, serotonin, stem cells, progenitor cells, migration, NMDA receptor