Multiple insults to the brain lead to neuronal cell death, thus raising the question to what extent can lost neurons be replenished by adult neurogenesis. Here we focused on the hippocampus and especially the dentate gyrus (DG), a vulnerable brain region and one of the two sites where adult neuronal stem cells (NSCs) reside. While adult hippocampal neurogenesis was extensively studied with regard to its contribution to cognitive enhancement, we focused on their underestimated capability to repair a massively injured, nonfunctional DG. To address this issue, we inflicted substantial DG-specific damage in mice of either sex either by diphtheria toxin-based ablation of >50% of mature DG granule cells (GCs) or by prolonged brain-specific VEGF overexpression culminating in extensive, highly selective loss of DG GCs (thereby also reinforcing the notion of selective DG vulnerability). The neurogenic system promoted effective regeneration by increasing NSCs proliferation/survival rates, restoring a nearly original DG mass, promoting proper rewiring of regenerated neurons to their afferent and efferent partners, and regaining of lost spatial memory. Notably, concomitantly with the natural age-related decline in the levels of neurogenesis, the regenerative capacity of the hippocampus also subsided with age. The study thus revealed an unappreciated regenerative potential of the young DG and suggests hippocampal NSCs as a critical reservoir enabling recovery from catastrophic DG damage.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a European Council Research Project VASNICHE Grant 322692. We thank Steffen Jung (Weizmann Institute), Grigori Enikolopov (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), and Rudolf Jaenisch (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for mice; and Alissa Greenwald and Brachi Wolf (Hebrew University) for assistance.
Copyright © 2020 the authors
- Adult neurogenesis
- Dentate gyrus
- Hippocampal plasticity
- Neural stem cells