Ablating adult neurogenesis in the rat has no effect on spatial processing: evidence from a novel pharmacogenetic model.
ABSTRACT: The function of adult neurogenesis in the rodent brain remains unclear. Ablation of adult born neurons has yielded conflicting results about emotional and cognitive impairments. One hypothesis is that adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus enables spatial pattern separation, allowing animals to distinguish between similar stimuli. We investigated whether spatial pattern separation and other putative hippocampal functions of adult neurogenesis were altered in a novel genetic model of neurogenesis ablation in the rat. In rats engineered to express thymidine kinase (TK) from a promoter of the rat glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), ganciclovir treatment reduced new neurons by 98%. GFAP-TK rats showed no significant difference from controls in spatial pattern separation on the radial maze, spatial learning in the water maze, contextual or cued fear conditioning. Meta-analysis of all published studies found no significant effects for ablation of adult neurogenesis on spatial memory, cue conditioning or ethological measures of anxiety. An effect on contextual freezing was significant at a threshold of 5% (P = 0.04), but not at a threshold corrected for multiple testing. The meta-analysis revealed remarkably high levels of heterogeneity among studies of hippocampal function. The source of this heterogeneity remains unclear and poses a challenge for studies of the function of adult neurogenesis.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:Significant enhancement of neurogenesis is known to occur in response to a variety of brain insults such as traumatic brain injury. Previous studies have demonstrated that injury-induced newborn neurons are required for hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and memory tasks like the Morris water maze, but not in contextual fear conditioning that requires both the hippocampus and amygdala. Recently, the dentate gyrus, where adult hippocampal neurogenesis occurs, has been implicated in processing information to form specific memory under specific environmental stimuli in a process known as pattern separation. METHODS:To test whether injury-induced newborn neurons facilitate pattern separation, hippocampus-dependent contextual fear discrimination was performed using delta-HSV-TK transgenic mice, which can temporally inhibit injury-induced neurogenesis under the control of ganciclovir. RESULTS:We observed that impaired neurogenesis enhanced the ability to distinguish aversive from naïve environments. In addition, this occurs most significantly following injury, but only in a context-dependent manner whereby the sequence of introducing the naïve environment from the aversive one affected the performance differentially. CONCLUSIONS:Temporal impairment of both baseline and injury-induced adult neurogenesis enhances performance in fear discrimination in a context-dependent manner.
Project description:Although hippocampal neurogenesis has been described in many adult mammals, the functional impact of this process on physiology and behavior remains unclear. In the present study, we used two independent methods to ablate hippocampal neurogenesis and found that each procedure caused a limited behavioral deficit and a loss of synaptic plasticity within the dentate gyrus. Specifically, focal X irradiation of the hippocampus or genetic ablation of glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive neural progenitor cells impaired contextual fear conditioning but not cued conditioning. Hippocampal-dependent spatial learning tasks such as the Morris water maze and Y maze were unaffected. These findings show that adult-born neurons make a distinct contribution to some but not all hippocampal functions. In a parallel set of experiments, we show that long-term potentiation elicited in the dentate gyrus in the absence of GABA blockers requires the presence of new neurons, as it is eliminated by each of our ablation procedures. These data show that new hippocampal neurons can be preferentially recruited over mature granule cells in vitro and may provide a framework for how this small cell population can influence behavior.
Project description:Protein ubiquitination has a significant influence on diverse aspects of neuronal development and function. Dorfin, also known as Rnf19a, is a RING finger E3 ubiquitin ligase implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, but its in vivo functions have not been explored. We report here that Dorfin is a novel binding partner of the excitatory postsynaptic scaffolding protein PSD-95. Dorfin-mutant (Dorfin(-/-)) mice show reduced adult neurogenesis and enhanced long-term potentiation in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, but normal long-term potentiation in the CA1 region. Behaviorally, Dorfin(-/-) mice show impaired contextual fear conditioning, but normal levels of cued fear conditioning, fear extinction, spatial learning and memory, object recognition memory, spatial working memory, and pattern separation. Using a proteomic approach, we also identify a number of proteins whose ubiquitination levels are decreased in the Dorfin(-/-) brain. These results suggest that Dorfin may regulate adult neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, and contextual fear memory.
Project description:To explore the function of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, we ablated cell proliferation by using two independent and complementary methods: (i) a focal hippocampal irradiation and (ii) an inducible and reversible genetic elimination of neural progenitor cells. Previous studies using these methods found a weakening of contextual fear conditioning but no change in spatial reference memory, suggesting a supportive role for neurogenesis in some, but not all, hippocampal-dependent memory tasks. In the present study, we examined hippocampal-dependent and -independent working memory using different radial maze tasks. Surprisingly, ablating neurogenesis caused an improvement of hippocampal-dependent working memory when repetitive information was presented in a single day. These findings suggest that adult-born cells in the dentate gyrus have different, and in some cases, opposite roles in distinct types of memory.
Project description:Adult neurogenesis has been implicated in learning and memory of complex spatial environments. However, new neurons also play a role in nonmnemonic behavior, including the stress response and attention shifting. Many commonly used spatial tasks are very simple, and unsuitable for detecting neurogenesis effects, or are aversively motivated, making it difficult to dissociate effects on spatial learning and memory from effects on stress. We have therefore created a novel complex spatial environment, the flex maze, to enable reward-mediated testing of spatial learning in a flexibly configurable labyrinth. Using a pharmacogenetic method to completely inhibit neurogenesis in adulthood, we found that rats lacking new neurons (TK rats) and wild type controls completed and remembered most mazes equally well. However, control rats were slower to complete peppermint-scented mazes than other mazes, while neurogenesis-deficient rats showed no effect of mint on maze behavior, completing these mazes significantly faster than control rats. Additional testing found that wild type and TK rats showed similar detection of, avoidance of, and glucocorticoid response to the mint odor. These results suggest that spatial learning and memory in a labyrinth task is unaffected by the loss of new neurons, but that these cells affect the ability of an aversive stimulus to distract rats from completing the maze.
Project description:Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is a unique form of neural circuit plasticity that results in the generation of new neurons in the dentate gyrus throughout life. Neurons that arise in adults (adult-born neurons) show heightened synaptic plasticity during their maturation and can account for up to ten per cent of the entire granule cell population. Moreover, levels of adult hippocampal neurogenesis are increased by interventions that are associated with beneficial effects on cognition and mood, such as learning, environmental enrichment, exercise and chronic treatment with antidepressants. Together, these properties of adult neurogenesis indicate that this process could be harnessed to improve hippocampal functions. However, despite a substantial number of studies demonstrating that adult-born neurons are necessary for mediating specific cognitive functions, as well as some of the behavioural effects of antidepressants, it is unknown whether an increase in adult hippocampal neurogenesis is sufficient to improve cognition and mood. Here we show that inducible genetic expansion of the population of adult-born neurons through enhancing their survival improves performance in a specific cognitive task in which two similar contexts need to be distinguished. Mice with increased adult hippocampal neurogenesis show normal object recognition, spatial learning, contextual fear conditioning and extinction learning but are more efficient in differentiating between overlapping contextual representations, which is indicative of enhanced pattern separation. Furthermore, stimulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, when combined with an intervention such as voluntary exercise, produces a robust increase in exploratory behaviour. However, increasing adult hippocampal neurogenesis alone does not produce a behavioural response like that induced by anxiolytic agents or antidepressants. Together, our findings suggest that strategies that are designed to increase adult hippocampal neurogenesis specifically, by targeting the cell death of adult-born neurons or by other mechanisms, may have therapeutic potential for reversing impairments in pattern separation and dentate gyrus dysfunction such as those seen during normal ageing.
Project description:The growth of research on adult neurogenesis and the development of new models and tools have greatly advanced our understanding of the function of newborn neurons in recent years. However, there are still significant limitations in the ability to identify the functions of adult neurogenesis in available models. Here we report a transgenic rat (TK rat) that expresses herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase in GFAP+ cells. Upon treating TK rats with the antiviral drug valganciclovir, granule cell neurogenesis can be completely inhibited in adulthood, in both the hippocampus and olfactory bulb. Interestingly, neurogenesis in the glomerular and external plexiform layers of the olfactory bulb was only partially inhibited, suggesting that some adult-born neurons in these regions derive from a distinct precursor population that does not express GFAP. Within the hippocampus, blockade of neurogenesis was rapid and nearly complete within 1 week of starting treatment. Preliminary behavioral analyses indicate that general anxiety levels and patterns of exploration are generally unaffected in neurogenesis-deficient rats. However, neurogenesis-deficient TK rats showed reduced sucrose preference, suggesting deficits in reward-related behaviors. We expect that TK rats will facilitate structural, physiological, and behavioral studies that complement those possible in existing models, broadly enhancing understanding of the function of adult neurogenesis.
Project description:The dentate gyrus (DG) of the mammalian hippocampus is hypothesized to mediate pattern separation-the formation of distinct and orthogonal representations of mnemonic information-and also undergoes neurogenesis throughout life. How neurogenesis contributes to hippocampal function is largely unknown. Using adult mice in which hippocampal neurogenesis was ablated, we found specific impairments in spatial discrimination with two behavioral assays: (i) a spatial navigation radial arm maze task and (ii) a spatial, but non-navigable, task in the mouse touch screen. Mice with ablated neurogenesis were impaired when stimuli were presented with little spatial separation, but not when stimuli were more widely separated in space. Thus, newborn neurons may be necessary for normal pattern separation function in the DG of adult mice.
Project description:New neurons are continuously generated and functionally integrated into the dentate gyrus (DG) network during the adult lifespan of most mammals. The hippocampus is a crucial structure for spatial learning and memory, and the addition of new neurons into the DG circuitry of rodents seems to be a key element for these processes to occur. The Morris water maze (MWM) and contextual fear conditioning (CFC) are among the most commonly used hippocampus-dependent behavioral tasks to study episodic-like learning and memory in rodents. While the functional contribution of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) through these paradigms has been widely addressed, results have generated controversial findings. In this review, we analyze and discuss possible factors in the experimental methods that could explain the inconsistent results among AHN studies; moreover, we provide specific suggestions for the design of more sensitive protocols to assess AHN-mediated learning and memory functions.
Project description:To explore the role of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in novelty processing, we assessed novel object recognition (NOR) in mice after neurogenesis was arrested using focal x-irradiation of the hippocampus, or a reversible, genetic method in which glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive neural progenitor cells are ablated with ganciclovir. Arresting neurogenesis did not alter general activity or object investigation during four exposures with two constant objects. However, when a novel object replaced a constant object, mice with neurogenesis arrested by either ablation method showed increased exploration of the novel object when compared with control mice. The increased novel object exploration did not manifest until 4-6 weeks after x-irradiation or 6 weeks following a genetic ablation, indicating that exploration of the novel object is increased specifically by the elimination of 4- to 6-week-old adult born neurons. The increased novel object exploration was also observed in older mice, which exhibited a marked reduction in neurogenesis relative to young mice. Mice with neurogenesis arrested by either ablation method were also impaired in one-trial contextual fear conditioning (CFC) at 6 weeks but not at 4 weeks following ablation, further supporting the idea that 4- to 6-week-old adult born neurons are necessary for specific forms of hippocampal-dependent learning, and suggesting that the NOR and CFC effects have a common underlying mechanism. These data suggest that the transient enhancement of plasticity observed in young adult-born neurons contributes to cognitive functions.