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Keywords:

  • adult neurogenesis;
  • aging;
  • 5′-bromodeoxyuridine;
  • DG;
  • dentate neurogenesis;
  • doublecortin;
  • kainic acid;
  • neural stem cells;
  • rat;
  • stem cell proliferation;
  • stem cell differentiation

Abstract

Increased neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) after brain insults such as excitotoxic lesions, seizures, or stroke is a well known phenomenon in the young hippocampus. This plasticity reflects an innate compensatory response of neural stem cells (NSCs) in the young hippocampus to preserve function or minimize damage after injury. However, injuries to the middle-aged and aged hippocampi elicit either no or dampened neurogenesis response, which could be due to an altered plasticity of NSCs and/or the hippocampus with age. We examined whether the plasticity of NSCs to increase neurogenesis in response to a milder injury such as partial deafferentation is preserved during aging. We quantified DG neurogenesis in the hippocampus of young, middle-aged, and aged F344 rats after partial deafferentation. A partial deafferentation of the left hippocampus without any apparent cell loss was induced via administration of Kainic acid (0.5 μg in 1.0 μl) into the right lateral ventricle of the brain. In this model, degeneration of CA3 pyramidal neurons and dentate hilar neurons in the right hippocampus results in loss of commissural axons which leads to partial deafferentation of the dendrites of dentate granule cells and CA1-CA3 pyramidal neurons in the left hippocampus. Quantification of newly born cells that are added to the dentate granule cell layer at postdeafferentation days 4–15 using 5′-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) labeling revealed greatly increased addition of newly born cells (∼three fold increase) in the deafferented young and middle-aged hippocampi but not in the deafferented aged hippocampus. Measurement of newly born neurons using doublecortin (DCX) immunostaining also revealed similar findings. Analyses using BrdU-DCX dual immunofluorescence demonstrated no changes in neuronal fate-choice decision of newly born cells after deafferentation, in comparison to the age-matched naive hippocampus in all age groups. Thus, the plasticity of hippocampal NSCs to increase DG neurogenesis in response to a milder injury such as partial hippocampal deafferentation is preserved until middle age but lost at old age. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.