Age-related changes in innate immune function and glial-neuronal communication are early and critical events in brain aging and neurodegenerative disease, and lead to a chronic increase in oxidative stress and inflammation, which initiates neuronal dysfunction and reduced synaptic plasticity, and ultimately disruption in learning and memory in the aged brain. Several lines of evidence suggest a correlation between adult neurogenesis and learning. It has been proposed that a decline in hippocampal neurogenesis contributes to a physiologic decline in brain function. Recently, new and important insights relating to the production of new neurons affecting hippocampal-dependent memory ability have been provided. A multitude of factors have been shown to regulate the production of new neurons in the adult hippocampus, many of which change as a result of aging. Yet, the potential importance of neurogenesis in some affective and cognitive behaviors, as well as endogenous tissue repair mechanisms, makes further investigation of neurogenic regulators warranted. We have recent evidence that key regulators of communication between neurons and microglia are disrupted in the aged brain and may be one of the factors that precedes and initiates the observed increase in chronic inflammatory state. In this review the role of dysfunction in these neuronal-glial communication regulators underlying age-related impairments in cognition and hippocampal neurogenesis will be discussed. An understanding of these mechanisms will lead to the development of preventive or protective therapies.
Neurogenesis; aged brain; hippocampus; neuron; microglia
The hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory, is especially vulnerable to damage at early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Emerging evidence has indicated that altered neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus represents an early critical event in the course of AD. Although causal links have not been established, a variety of key molecules involved in AD pathogenesis have been shown to impact new neuron generation, either positively or negatively. From a functional point of view, hippocampal neurogenesis plays an important role in structural plasticity and network maintenance. Therefore, dysfunctional neurogenesis resulting from early subtle disease manifestations may in turn exacerbate neuronal vulnerability to AD and contribute to memory impairment, whereas enhanced neurogenesis may be a compensatory response and represent an endogenous brain repair mechanism. Here we review recent findings on alterations of neurogenesis associated with pathogenesis of AD, and we discuss the potential of neurogenesis-based diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for AD.
Alzheimer's disease; adult neurogenesis; hippocampus; neural stem cell
In the adult brain, new neurons are added to two brain areas: the olfactory bulb (OB) and the hippocampus. Newly-generated neurons integrate into the preexisting circuits, bringing a set of unique properties, such as increased plasticity and responsiveness to stimuli. However, the functional implications of the constant addition of these neurons remain unclear, although they are believed to be important for learning and memory. The levels of neurogenesis are regulated by a variety of environmental factors, as well as during learning, suggesting that new neurons could be important for coping with changing environmental demands. Notably, neurogenesis has been shown to be physiologically regulated in relation to reproductive behavior: neurogenesis increases in female mice upon exposure to cues of the mating partners, during pregnancy and lactation, and in male mice upon exposure to their offspring. In this scenario, and because of the key contribution of olfaction to maternal behavior, we sought to investigate the contribution of adult-generated neurons in the olfactory system to maternal behavior and offspring recognition. To do so, we selectively disrupted neurogenesis in the olfactory pathway of female mice using focal irradiation. Disruption of adult neurogenesis in the OB did not affect maternal behavior, or the ability of female mice to discriminate familiar from unfamiliar pups. However, reduction of olfactory neurogenesis resulted in abnormal social interaction of female mice, specifically with male conspecifics. Because the olfactory system is crucial for sex recognition, we suggest that the abnormal interaction with males could result from the inability to detect or discriminate male-specific odors and could therefore have implications for the recognition of potential mating partners. Here, I review the results of our study and others, and discuss their implications for our understanding of the function of adult neurogenesis.
olfactory neurogenesis; maternal behavior; sex discrimination; social behavior; irradiation
Neurogenesis occurs in two neurogenic zones in the adult brain: new neurons are born at the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and then migrate to the olfactory bulb, and at the subgranular zone to integrate the granular cell layer of the dentate gyrus. The hippocampus is involved in learning and memory and the generation of new hippocampal neurons has been suggested to be a new form of plasticity implicated in these processes. In the last decades, diverse intrinsic and epigenetic factors have been identified to influence adult neurogenesis but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. In a recent study, Lafenetre et al. (2010) showed the beneficial influence of physical voluntary activity on adult neurogenesis and cognitive performance in a transgenic mouse, the synRas mouse via brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Here we review how hippocampal neurogenesis can be regulated by environmental factors and the possible role of the newly generated cells in learning and memory.
Ras; exercise; BDNF; object recognition; learning; memory
Brain plasticity and adult neurogenesis may play a role in many ecologically-important processes including mate recognition, song learning and production, and spatial memory processing. In a number of species, both physical and social environments appear to influence attributes (e.g., volume, neuron number, and neurogenesis) of particular brain regions. The hippocampus in particular is well known to be especially sensitive to such changes. Although social grouping in many taxa includes the formation of male and female pairs, most studies of the relationship between social environment and the hippocampus have typically considered only solitary animals and those living in same-sex groups. Thus, the aim of the present study was to compare the volume of the hippocampal formation, the total number of hippocampal neurons, and the number of immature neurons in the hippocampus (as determined by doublecortin expression) in mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) housed in groups of males and females, male-female pairs, same-sex pairs of either males or females, and as solitary individuals. The different groups were visually and physically, but not acoustically, isolated from each other. We found no significant differences between any of our groups in hippocampal volume, the total number of hippocampal neurons, or the number of immature neurons. Our results thus provided no support to the hypothesis that social group composition and/or size have an effect on hippocampal morphology and neurogenesis.
social grouping; hippocampus; doublecortin; Poecile gambeli
Adult neurogenesis, the process of generating new neurons from neural stem cells, plays significant roles in synaptic plasticity, memory, and mood regulation. In the mammalian brain, it continues to occur well into adulthood in discrete regions, namely, the hippocampus and olfactory bulb. During the past decade, significant progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms regulating adult hippocampal neurogenesis and its role in the etiology of mental disorders. In addition, adult hippocampal neurogenesis is highly correlated with the remission of the antidepressant effect. In this paper, we discuss three major psychiatric disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and drug addiction, in light of preclinical evidence used in establishing the neurobiological significance of adult neurogenesis. We interpret the significance of these results and pose questions that remain unanswered. Potential treatments which include electroconvulsive therapy, deep brain stimulation, chemical antidepressants, and exercise therapy are discussed. While consensus lacks on specific mechanisms, we highlight evidence which indicates that these treatments may function via an increase in neural progenitor proliferation and changes to the hippocampal circuitry. Establishing a significant role of adult neurogenesis in the pathogenicity of psychiatric disorders may hold the key to potential strategies toward effective treatment.
Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is one of the most robust forms of synaptic plasticity in the nervous system and occurs throughout life. However, the rate of neurogenesis declines dramatically with age. Older animals have significantly less neural progenitor cell proliferation, neuronal differentiation, and newborn neuron survival compared to younger animals. Intrinsic properties of neural progenitor cells, such as gene transcription and telomerase activity, change with age, which may contribute to the observed decline in neurogenesis. In addition, age-related changes in the local cells of the neurogenic niche may no longer provide neural progenitor cells with the cell-cell contact and soluble cues necessary for hippocampal neurogenesis. Astrocytes, microglia, and endothelial cells undergo changes in morphology and signaling properties with age, altering the foundation of the neurogenic niche. While most studies indicate a correlation between decreased hippocampal neurogenesis and impaired performance in hippocampus-dependent cognitive tasks in aged mice, a few have demonstrated that young and aged mice are equivalent in their cognitive ability. Here, we summarize the different behavioral paradigms to test hippocampus-dependent cognition and the need to develop neurogenesis-dependent tasks.
aging; neurogenesis; neurogenic niche; cognition
Newborn neurons in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the hippocampus incorporate into the dentate gyrus and mature. Numerous studies have focused on hippocampal neurogenesis because of its importance in learning and memory. However, it is largely unknown whether hippocampal neurogenesis is involved in memory extinction per se. Here, we sought to examine the possibility that hippocampal neurogenesis may play a critical role in the formation and extinction of hippocampus-dependent contextual fear memory. By methylazoxymethanol acetate (MAM) or gamma-ray irradiation, hippocampal neurogenesis was impaired in adult mice. Under our experimental conditions, only a severe impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis inhibited the formation of contextual fear memory. However, the extinction of contextual fear memory was not affected. These results suggest that although adult newborn neurons contribute to contextual fear memory, they may not be involved in the extinction or erasure of hippocampus-dependent contextual fear memory.
Multiple organ systems are adversely affected by diabetes, including the brain, which undergoes changes that may increase the risk of cognitive decline. Although diabetes influences the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, the role of this neuroendocrine system in diabetes–induced cognitive dysfunction remains unexplored. Here we demonstrate that, in both insulin–deficient rats and insulin–resistant mice, diabetes impairs hippocampus–dependent memory, perforant path synaptic plasticity and adult neurogenesis, and the adrenal steroid corticosterone contributes to these adverse effects. Rats treated with streptozocin have reduced levels of insulin, and exhibit hyperglycemia, increased levels of corticosterone, and impairments in hippocampal neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and learning. Similar deficits are observed in db/db mice, which are characterized by insulin resistance, elevated corticosterone levels and obesity. Changes in hippocampal plasticity and function in both models are reversed when normal physiological levels of corticosterone are maintained, suggesting that cognitive impairment in diabetes may result from glucocorticoid–mediated deficits in neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity.
glucocorticoid; dentate gyrus; streptozotocin; water maze; object recognition
This review discusses the contributions of a newly considered form of plasticity, the ongoing production of new neurons from neural stem cells, or adult neurogenesis, within the context of neuropathologies that occur with excessive alcohol intake in the adolescent. Neural stem cells and adult neurogenesis are now thought to contribute to the structural integrity of the hippocampus, a limbic system region involved in learning, memory, behavioral control, and mood. In adolescents with alcohol use disorders, the hippocampus appears to be particularly vulnerable to the neurodegenerative effects of alcohol, but the role of neural stem cells and adult neurogenesis in alcoholic neuropathology has only recently been considered. This review encompasses a brief overview of neural stem cells and the processes involved in adult neurogenesis, how neural stem cells are affected by alcohol, and possible differences in the neurogenic niche between adults and adolescents. Specifically, what is known about developmental differences in adult neurogenesis between the adult and adolescent is gleaned from the literature, as well as how alcohol affects this process differently between the age groups. And finally, this review suggests differences that may exist in the neurogenic niche between adults and adolescents and how these differences may contribute to the susceptibility of the adolescent hippocampus to damage. However, many more studies are needed to discern whether these developmental differences contribute to the vulnerability of the adolescent to developing an alcohol use disorder.
ethanol; alcoholism; progenitor; hippocampus; neurodegeneration
Neuroplasticity is characterized by growth and branching of dendrites, remodeling of synaptic contacts, and neurogenesis, thus allowing the brain to adapt to changes over time. It is maintained in adulthood but strongly repressed during aging. An age-related decline in neurogenesis is particularly pronounced in the two adult neurogenic areas, the subventricular zone and the dentate gyrus. This age-related decline seems to be attributable mainly to limited proliferation, associated with an age-dependent increase in quiescence and/or a lengthening of the cell cycle, and is closely dependent on environmental changes. Indeed, when triggered by appropriate signals, neurogenesis can be reactivated in senescent brains, thus confirming the idea that the age-related decrease in new neuron production is not an irreversible, cell-intrinsic process. The coevolution of neurogenesis and age-related memory deficits – especially regarding spatial memory – during senescence supports the idea that new neurons in the adult brain participate in memory processing, and that a reduction in the ability to generate new neurons contributes to the appearance of memory deficits with advanced age. Furthermore, the age-related changes in hippocampal plasticity and function are under environmental influences that can favor successful or pathological aging. A better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate neurogenesis is necessary to develop new therapeutic tools to cure or prevent the development of memory disorders that may appear during the course of aging in some individuals.
aging; hippocampus; memory; neurogenesis; neuroplasticity; spatial learning
The dentate gyrus, an important anatomic structure of the hippocampal formation, is one of the major areas in which neurogenesis takes place in the adult mammalian brain. Neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus is thought to play an important role in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Neurogenesis has been reported to be increased in the dentate gyrus of patients with Alzheimer disease, but it is not known whether the newly generated neurons differentiate into mature neurons. In this study, the expression of the mature neuronal marker high molecular weight microtubule-associated protein (MAP) isoforms MAP2a and b was found to be dramatically decreased in Alzheimer disease dentate gyrus, as determined by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. The total MAP2, including expression of the immature neuronal marker, the MAP2c isoform, was less affected. These findings suggest that newly generated neurons in Alzheimer disease dentate gyrus do not become mature neurons, although neuroproliferation is increased.
Alzheimer disease; Hippocampus; Microtubule-associated protein 2; Neurogenesis
Although mammalian neurogenesis is mostly completed by the perinatal period, new neurons are continuously generated in the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricle and the subgranular zone of the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Since the discovery of adult neurogenesis, many extensive studies have been performed on various aspects of adult neurogenesis, including proliferation and fate-specification of adult neural stem cells, and the migration, maturation and synaptic integration of newly born neurons. Furthermore, recent research has shed light on the intensive contribution of adult neurogenesis to olfactory-related and hippocampus-mediated brain functions. The field of adult neurogenesis progressed tremendously thanks to technical advances that facilitate the identification and selective manipulation of newly born neurons among billions of pre-existing neurons in the adult central nervous system. In this review, we introduce recent advances in the methodologies for visualizing newly generated neurons and manipulating neurogenesis in the adult brain. Particularly, the application of site-specific recombinases and Tet inducible system in combination with transgenic or gene targeting strategy is discussed in further detail.
adult neurogenesis; neural stem cells; Cre/loxP; CreERT2; transgenic mice; nestin
Exposure to environmental enrichment has been shown to induce robust neuronal plasticity in both intact and injured adult central nervous system, including up-regulation of multiple neurotrophic factors, enhanced neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, and improved spatial learning and memory function. Neuronal plasticity, though mostly adaptive and abnormal, also occurs during certain neurodegenerative conditions such as the temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). The TLE is characterized by hippocampal neurodegeneration, aberrant mossy fiber sprouting, spontaneous recurrent motor seizures, cognitive deficits, and abnormally enhanced neurogenesis during the early phase and dramatically declined neurogenesis during the chronic phase of the disease. As enrichment has been found to be beneficial for treating animal models of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, there is considerable interest in determining the efficacy of this strategy for preventing or treating chronic TLE after the initial precipitating brain injury. This review first discusses the proof of principle behind the potential application of the environmental enrichment strategy for preventing or treating TLE after brain injury. The subsequent chapters confer the portrayed beneficial effects of enrichment for functional post-lesional recovery in TLE and the possible complications which may arise from housing epilepsy-prone or epileptic rats in enriched environmental conditions. The final segment discusses studies that are essential for further understanding the efficacy of this approach for preventing or treating TLE.
Neuronal plasticity; Epilepsy; Enriched environment; Neuroprotection; Dentate neurogenesis; Seizures
The adult hippocampus in birds and mammals undergoes neurogenesis and the resulting new neurons appear to integrate structurally and functionally into the existing neural architecture. However, the factors underlying the regulation of new neuron production is still under scrutiny. In recent years, the concept that spatial memory affects adult hippocampal neurogenesis has gained acceptance, although results attempting to causally link memory use to neurogenesis remain inconclusive, possibly owing to confounds of motor activity, task difficulty or training for the task. Here, we show that ecologically relevant, spatial memory-based experiences of food caching and retrieving directly affect hippocampal neurogenesis in mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli). We found that restricting memory experiences in captivity caused significantly lower rates of neurogenesis, as determined by doublecortin expression, compared with captive individuals provided with such experiences. However, neurogenesis rates in both groups of captive birds were still greatly lower than those in free-ranging conspecifics. These findings show that ecologically relevant spatial memory experiences can directly modulate neurogenesis, separate from other confounds that may also independently affect neurogenesis.
spatial memory; hippocampus; neurogenesis; food caching; chickadees; doublecortin
The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus is one of the few regions of the mammalian brain where new neurons are generated throughout adulthood. This adult neurogenesis has been proposed as a novel mechanism that mediates spatial memory. However, data showing a causal relationship between neurogenesis and spatial memory are controversial. Here, we developed an inducible transgenic strategy allowing specific ablation of adult-born hippocampal neurons. This resulted in an impairment of spatial relational memory, which supports a capacity for flexible, inferential memory expression. In contrast, less complex forms of spatial knowledge were unaltered. These findings demonstrate that adult-born neurons are necessary for complex forms of hippocampus-mediated learning.
The adult hippocampus is involved in learning and memory. As a consequence, it is a brain region of remarkable plasticity. This plasticity exhibits itself both as cellular changes and neurogenesis. For neurogenesis to occur, a population of local stem cells and progenitor cells is maintained in the adult brain and these are able to proliferate and differentiate into neurons which contribute to the hippocampal circuitry. There is much interest in understanding the role of immature cells in the hippocampus, in relation to learning and memory. Methods and mechanisms that increase the numbers of these cells will be valuable in this research field. We show here that single injections of soluble factors into the lateral ventricle of adult rats and mice induces the rapid (within one week) increase in the number of putative stem cells/progenitor cells in the hippocampus. The established progenitor marker Sox2 together with the more recently established marker Hes3, were used to quantify the manipulation of the Sox2/Hes3 double-positive cell population. We report that in both adult rodent species, Sox2+/Hes3+ cell numbers can be increased within one week. The most prominent increase was observed in the hilus of the dentate gyrus. This study presents a fast, pharmacological method to manipulate the numbers of endogenous putative stem cells/progenitor cells. This method may be easily modified to alter the degree of activation (e.g. by the use of osmotic pumps for delivery, or by repeat injections through implanted cannulas), in order to be best adapted to different paradigms of research (neurodegenerative disease, neuroprotection, learning, memory, plasticity, etc).
Down syndrome (DS) patients exhibit abnormalities of hippocampal-dependent explicit memory, a feature that is replicated in relevant mouse models of the disease. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which is impaired in DS and other neuropsychiatric diseases, plays a key role in hippocampal circuit plasticity and has been implicated in learning and memory. However, it remains unknown whether increasing adult neurogenesis improves hippocampal plasticity and behavioral performance in the multifactorial context of DS. We report that, in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS, chronic administration of lithium, a clinically used mood stabilizer, promoted the proliferation of neuronal precursor cells through the pharmacological activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and restored adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) to physiological levels. The restoration of adult neurogenesis completely rescued the synaptic plasticity of newborn neurons in the DG and led to the full recovery of behavioral performance in fear conditioning, object location, and novel object recognition tests. These findings indicate that reestablishing a functional population of hippocampal newborn neurons in adult DS mice rescues hippocampal plasticity and memory and implicate adult neurogenesis as a promising therapeutic target to alleviate cognitive deficits in DS patients.
The adult mammalian brain continuously generates new neurons in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus throughout life. Adult neurogenesis, a highly dynamic process, has been shown to be exquisitely modulated by neuronal circuit activity at different stages, from proliferation of adult neural progenitors, to differentiation, maturation, integration and survival of newborn neurons in the adult brain. Strategic activity-dependent addition of new neurons into the existing neuronal circuitry represents a prominent form of structural plasticity and may contribute to specific brain functions, such as learning, memory and mood modulation. Here we review extrinsic mechanisms through which adult neurogenesis is regulated by environmental cues, physiological learning-related stimuli and neuronal activities.
Plasticity; adult stem cells; neurotransmitter; neurogenesis; neural activity
The transcription factor Prox1 plays a crucial role in intermediate progenitor maintenance and hippocampal neuron differentiation during adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus.
The dentate gyrus has an important role in learning and memory, and adult neurogenesis in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus may play a role in the acquisition of new memories. The homeobox gene Prox1 is expressed in the dentate gyrus during embryonic development and adult neurogenesis. Here we show that Prox1 is necessary for the maturation of granule cells in the dentate gyrus during development and for the maintenance of intermediate progenitors during adult neurogenesis. We also demonstrate that Prox1-expressing intermediate progenitors are required for adult neural stem cell self-maintenance in the subgranular zone; thus, we have identified a previously unknown non-cell autonomous regulatory feedback mechanism that controls adult neurogenesis in this region of the mammalian brain. Finally, we show that the ectopic expression of Prox1 induces premature differentiation of neural stem cells.
In the brain, the hippocampus has a crucial role in learning and memory. In mammals, neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) occurs in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus throughout adulthood, and this activity is thought to be the basis for the acquisition of new memories. In this study we describe for the first time the functional roles of the transcription factor Prox1 during brain development and adult neurogenesis. We demonstrate that in mammals, Prox1 is required for the differentiation of granule cells during dentate gyrus development. We also show that conditional inactivation of Prox1 results in the absence of specific intermediate progenitors in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus, which prevents adult neurogenesis from occurring. This is the first report showing blockade of adult neurogenesis at the level of progenitor cells. Next, we demonstrate that in the absence of Prox1-expressing intermediate progenitors, the stem cell population of the subgranular zone becomes depleted. Further, we show that Prox1-expressing intermediate progenitors are required for adult neural stem cell self-maintenance in the subgranular zone. Finally, we demonstrate that Prox1 ectopic expression induces premature granule cell differentiation in the subgranular zone. Therefore, our results identify a previously unknown non-cell autonomous feedback mechanism that links adult stem cell self-maintenance with neuronal differentiation in the dentate gyrus and could have important implications for neurogenesis in other brain regions.
Exposure to exercise or to environmental enrichment increases the generation of new neurons in the adult hippocampus and promotes certain kinds of learning and memory. While the precise role of neurogenesis in cognition has been debated intensely, comparatively few studies have addressed the mechanisms linking environmental exposures to cellular and behavioral outcomes. Here we show that bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling mediates the effects of exercise on neurogenesis and cognition in the adult hippocampus. Elective exercise reduces levels of hippocampal BMP signaling before and during its promotion of neurogenesis and learning. Transgenic mice with decreased BMP signaling or wild type mice infused with a BMP inhibitor both exhibit remarkable gains in hippocampal cognitive performance and neurogenesis, mirroring the effects of exercise. Conversely, transgenic mice with increased BMP signaling have diminished hippocampal neurogenesis and impaired cognition. Exercise exposure does not rescue these deficits, suggesting that reduced BMP signaling is required for environmental effects on neurogenesis and learning. Together, these observations show that BMP signaling is a fundamental mechanism linking environmental exposure with changes in cognitive function and cellular properties in the hippocampus.
It is known since a long time that the hippocampus is sensitive to aging. Thus, there is a reduction in the hippocampal volume during aging. This age-related volume reduction is paralleled by behavioral and functional deficits in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory tasks. This age-related volume reduction of the hippocampus is not a consequence of an age-related loss of hippocampal neurons. The morphological changes associated with aging include reductions in the branching pattern of dendrites, as well as reductions in spine densities, reductions in the densities of fibers projecting into the hippocampus as well as declines in the rate of neurogenesis. It is very unlikely that a single factor or a single class of molecules is responsible for all these age-related morphological changes in the hippocampus. Nevertheless, it would be of advantage to identify possible neuromodulators or neuropeptides that may contribute to these age-related changes. In this context, growth factors may play an important role in the maintenance of the postnatal hippocampal architecture. In this review it is hypothesized that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a factor critically involved in the regulation of age-related processes in the hippocampus. Moreover, evidences suggest that disturbances in the BDNF-system also affect hippocampal dysfunctions, as e.g. seen in major depression or in Alzheimer disease.
aging; hippocampus; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; depression; dendritic spines; neurogenesis
Several studies suggest that an increase in adult neurogenesis has beneficial effects on emotional behavior and cognitive performance including learning and memory. The observation that aging has a negative effect on the proliferation of neural stem cells has prompted several laboratories to investigate new systems to artificially increase neurogenesis in senescent animals as a means to compensate for age-related cognitive decline. In this review we will discuss the systemic, cellular, and molecular changes induced by aging and affecting the neurogenic niche at the level of neural stem cell proliferation, their fate change, neuronal survival, and subsequent integration in the neuronal circuitry. Particular attention will be given to those manipulations that increase neurogenesis in the aged brain as a potential avenue towards therapy.
adult neurogenesis; neural stem cells; aging; regenerative therapies
Hippocampal function varies along its septotemporal axis, with the septal (dorsal) pole more frequently involved in spatial learning and memory and the temporal (ventral) pole playing a greater role in emotional behaviors. One feature that varies across these subregions is adult neurogenesis. New neurons are more numerous in the septal hippocampus but are more active in the temporal hippocampus during water maze training. However, many other aspects of adult neurogenesis remain unexplored in the context of septal versus temporal subregions. In addition, the dentate gyrus contains another functionally important anatomical division along the transverse axis, with the suprapyramidal blade showing greater experience-related activity than the infrapyramidal blade. Here we ask whether new neurons differ in their rates of survival and maturation along the septotemporal and transverse axes. We found that neurogenesis is initially higher in the infrapyramidal than suprapyramidal blade, but these cells are less likely to survive, resulting in similar densities of neurons in the two blades by four weeks. Across the septotemporal axis, neurogenesis was higher in septal than temporal pole, while the survival rate of new neurons did not differ. Maturation was assessed by immunostaining for the neuronal marker, NeuN, which increases in expression level with maturation, and for the immediate-early gene, Arc, which suggests a neuron is capable of undergoing activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. Maturation occurred approximately 1–2 weeks earlier in the septal pole than in the temporal pole. This suggests that septal neurons may contribute to function sooner; however, the prolonged maturation of new temporal neurons may endow them with a longer window of plasticity during which their functions could be distinct from those of the mature granule cell population. These data point to subregional differences in new neuron maturation and suggest that changes in neurogenesis could alter different hippocampus-dependent behaviors with different time courses.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder linked to expanded CAG-triplet nucleotide repeats within the huntingtin gene. Intracellular huntingtin aggregates are present in neurons of distinct brain areas, among them regions of adult neurogenesis including the hippocampus and the subventricular zone/olfactory bulb system. Previously, reduced hippocampal neurogenesis has been detected in transgenic rodent models of HD. Therefore, we hypothesized that mutant huntingtin also affects newly generated neurons derived from the subventricular zone of adult R6/2 HD mice.
We observed a redirection of immature neuroblasts towards the striatum, however failed to detect new mature neurons. We further analyzed adult neurogenesis in the granular cell layer and the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb, the physiological target region of subventricular zone-derived neuroblasts. Using bromodeoxyuridine to label proliferating cells, we observed in both neurogenic regions of the olfactory bulb a reduction in newly generated neurons.
These findings suggest that the striatal environment, severely affected in R6/2 mice, is capable of attracting neuroblasts, however this region fails to provide sufficient signals for neuronal maturation. Moreover, in transgenic R6/2 animals, the hostile huntingtin-associated microenvironment in the olfactory bulb interferes with the survival and integration of new mature neurons. Taken together, endogenous cell repair strategies in HD may require additional factors for the differentiation and survival of newly generated neurons both in neurogenic and non-neurogenic regions.