A specific memory is thought to be encoded by a sparse population of neurons. These neurons can be tagged during learning for subsequent identification and manipulation. Moreover, their ablation or inactivation results in reduced memory expression, suggesting their necessity in mnemonic processes. However, the question of sufficiency remains: it is unclear whether it is possible to elicit the behavioural output of a specific memory by directly activating a population of neurons that was active during learning. Here we show in mice that optogenetic reactivation of hippocampal neurons activated during fear conditioning is sufficient to induce freezing behaviour. We labelled a population of hippocampal dentate gyrus neurons activated during fear learning with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) and later optically reactivated these neurons in a different context. The mice showed increased freezing only upon light stimulation, indicating light-induced fear memory recall. This freezing was not detected in non-fear-conditioned mice expressing ChR2 in a similar proportion of cells, nor in fear-conditioned mice with cells labelled by enhanced yellow fluorescent protein instead of ChR2. Finally, activation of cells labelled in a context not associated with fear did not evoke freezing in mice that were previously fear conditioned in a different context, suggesting that light-induced fear memory recall is context specific. Together, our findings indicate that activating a sparse but specific ensemble of hippocampal neurons that contribute to a memory engram is sufficient for the recall of that memory. Moreover, our experimental approach offers a general method of mapping cellular populations bearing memory engrams.
- Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
- Published over 6 years ago
Adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal subgranular zone (SGZ) and the anterior subventricular zone (SVZ) is regulated by multiple factors, including neurotransmitters, hormones, stress, aging, voluntary exercise, environmental enrichment, learning, and ischemia. Chronic treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) modulates adult neurogenesis in the SGZ, the neuronal area that is hypothesized to mediate the antidepressant effects of these substances. Layer 1 inhibitory neuron progenitor cells (L1-INP cells) were recently identified in the adult cortex, but it remains unclear what factors other than ischemia affect the neurogenesis of L1-INP cells. Here, we show that chronic treatment with an SSRI, fluoxetine (FLX), stimulated the neurogenesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic interneurons from L1-INP cells in the cortex of adult mice. Immunofluorescence and genetic analyses revealed that FLX treatment increased the number of L1-INP cells in all examined cortical regions in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, enhanced Venus reporter expression driven by the synapsin I promoter demonstrated that GABAergic interneurons were derived from retrovirally labeled L1-INP cells. In order to assess if these new GABAergic interneurons possess physiological function, we examined the their effect on apoptosis surrounding areas following ischemia. Intriguingly, the number of neurons expressing the apoptotic marker, active caspase-3, was significantly lower in adult mice pretreated with FLX. Our findings indicate that FLX stimulates the neurogenesis of cortical GABAergic interneurons, which might have, at least, some functions, including a suppressive effect on apoptosis induced by ischemia.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 4 January 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.2.
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 transcription factor gene Sox2 is expressed in embryonic neural stem/progenitor cells and previous evidence suggests that it is also expressed in adult neural stem cells. To target Sox2-expressing neural stem/progenitor cells in a temporal manner, we generated a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse line, in which an inducible form of Cre, CreER™, is expressed under Sox2 regulatory elements. Inducible Cre activity in these mice was characterized using floxed reporters. During development, the Sox2-CreER transgenic mice show inducible Cre activity specifically in CNS stem/progenitor cells, making them a useful tool to regulate the expression of floxed genes temporally in embryonic neural stem/progenitor cells. In the adult, we examined the cell-specific expression of Sox2 and performed long-term lineage tracing. Four months after the transient induction of Cre activity, recombined GFAP+ stem-like cells and DCX+ neuroblasts were still abundant in the neurogenic regions including the subventricular zone (SVZ), rostral migratory stream (RMS), and subgranular zone (SGZ) of the dentate gyrus. These results provide definitive in vivo evidence that Sox2 is expressed in neural stem cells (NSC) in both the SVZ and SGZ that are capable of self-renewal and long-term neurogenesis. Therefore, Sox2-CreER mice should be useful in targeting floxed genes in adult neural stem cells.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an efficient and relatively fast acting treatment for depression. However, one severe side effect of the treatment is retrograde amnesia, which in certain cases can be long-term. The mechanisms behind the antidepressant effect and the amnesia are not well understood. We hypothesized that ECT causes transient downregulation of key molecules needed to stabilize synaptic structure and to prevent Ca2+ influx, and a simultaneous increase in neurotrophic factors, thus providing a short time window of increased structural synaptic plasticity. Here we followed regulation of NgR1, NgR3, LOTUS, BDNF, and AMPA subunits GluR1 and GluR2 flip and flop mRNA levels in hippocampus at 2, 4, 12, 24, and 72 hours after a single episode of induced electroconvulsive seizures (ECS) in rats. NgR1 and LOTUS mRNA levels were transiently downregulated in the dentate gyrus 2, 4, 12 and 4, 12, 24 h after ECS treatment, respectively. GluR2 flip, flop and GluR1 flop were downregulated at 4 h. GluR2 flip remained downregulated at 12 h. In contrast, BDNF, NgR3 and GluR1 flip mRNA levels were upregulated. Thus, ECS treatment induces a transient regulation of factors important for neuronal plasticity. Our data provide correlations between ECS treatment and molecular events compatible with the hypothesis that both effects and side effects of ECT may be caused by structural synaptic rearrangements.
Banisteriopsis caapi is the basic ingredient of ayahuasca, a psychotropic plant tea used in the Amazon for ritual and medicinal purposes, and by interested individuals worldwide. Animal studies and recent clinical research suggests that B. caapi preparations show antidepressant activity, a therapeutic effect that has been linked to hippocampal neurogenesis. Here we report that harmine, tetrahydroharmine and harmaline, the three main alkaloids present in B. caapi, and the harmine metabolite harmol, stimulate adult neurogenesis in vitro. In neurospheres prepared from progenitor cells obtained from the subventricular and the subgranular zones of adult mice brains, all compounds stimulated neural stem cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation into adult neurons. These findings suggest that modulation of brain plasticity could be a major contribution to the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca. They also expand the potential application of B. caapi alkaloids to other brain disorders that may benefit from stimulation of endogenous neural precursor niches.
Aging is associated with increased inflammation and reduced hippocampal neurogenesis, which may in turn contribute to cognitive impairment. Taurine is a free amino acid found in numerous diets, with anti-inflammatory properties. Although abundant in the young brain, the decrease in taurine concentration with age may underlie reduced neurogenesis. Here, we assessed the effect of taurine on hippocampal neurogenesis in middle-aged mice. We found that taurine increased cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus through the activation of quiescent stem cells, resulting in increased number of stem cells and intermediate neural progenitors. Taurine had a direct effect on stem/progenitor cells proliferation, as observed in vitro, and also reduced activated microglia. Furthermore, taurine increased the survival of newborn neurons, resulting in a net increase in adult neurogenesis. Together, these results show that taurine increases several steps of adult neurogenesis and support a beneficial role of taurine on hippocampal neurogenesis in the context of brain aging.
“Once development was ended…in the adult centers, the nerve paths are something fixed and immutable. Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated,” wrote Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish neuroanatomist and Nobel Prize winner and the father of modern neuroscience. This statement was the central dogma in neuroscience for a long time. However, in the 1960s, neural stem cells (NSCs) were discovered. Since then, our knowledge about NSCs has continued to grow. This review focuses on our current knowledge about NSCs and their surrounding microenvironment. In addition, the clinical application of NSCs for the treatment of various central nervous system diseases is also summarized.
We recently reported isolation of viable rat amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells . Here, we tested the therapeutic benefits of AFS cells in a rodent model of ischemic stroke. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats received a 60-minute middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). Thirty-five days later, animals exhibiting significant motor deficits received intravenous transplants of rat AFS cells or vehicle. At days 60-63 post-MCAo, significant recovery of motor and cognitive function was seen in stroke animals transplanted with AFS cells compared to vehicle-infused stroke animals. Infarct volume, as revealed by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, was significantly reduced, coupled with significant increments in the cell proliferation marker, Ki67, and the neuronal marker, MAP2, in the dentate gyrus (DG)  and the subventricular zone (SVZ) of AFS cell-transplanted stroke animals compared to vehicle-infused stroke animals. A significantly higher number of double-labeled Ki67/MAP2-positive cells and a similar trend towards increased Ki67/MAP2 double-labeling were observed in the DG and SVZ of AFS cell-transplanted stroke animals, respectively, compared to vehicle-infused stroke animals. This study reports the therapeutic potential of AFS cell transplantation in stroke animals, possibly via enhancement of endogenous repair mechanisms.
This study elucidated the stage-specific roles of FGF2 signaling during neural development using in-vitro human embryonic stem cell-based developmental modeling. We found that the dysregulation of FGF2 signaling prior to the onset of neural induction resulted in the malformation of neural rosettes (a neural tube-like structure), despite cells having undergone neural induction. The aberrant neural rosette formation may be attributed to the misplacement of ZO-1, which is a polarized tight junction protein and shown co-localized with FGF2/FGFR1 in the apical region of neural rosettes, subsequently led to abnormal neurogenesis. Moreover, the FGF2 signaling inhibition at the stage of neural rosettes caused a reduction in cell proliferation, an increase in numbers of cells with cell-cycle exit, and premature neurogenesis. These effects may be mediated by NUMB, to which expression was observed enriched in the apical region of neural rosettes after FGF2 signaling inhibition coinciding with the disappearance of PAX6(+)/Ki67(+) neural stem cells and the emergence of MAP2(+) neurons. Moreover, our results suggested that the hESC-based developmental system reserved a similar neural stem cell niche in vivo.