Evaluating the functional state of adult-born neurons in the adult dentate gyrus of the hippocampus: from birth to functional integration.
Activity-dependent synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis are two forms of brain plasticity that can participate in functional remodeling of neural networks during the formation of memories. We examined whether long-term potentiation (LTP) of excitatory synaptic transmission, a well characterized form of synaptic plasticity believed to play a critical role in memory formation, can regulate the rate of neurogenesis in the adult rat dentate gyrus in vivo. We first show that induction of LTP at medial perforant path-granule cell synapses stimulates the proliferation of progenitor cells in the dentate gyrus with a consequential long-term persistence of a larger population of surviving newborn cells. Using protocols to examine the effect of LTP on survival, we next show that LTP induction promotes survival of 1- to 2-week-old dentate granule cells. In no case did LTP appear to affect neuronal differentiation. Finally, we show that LTP induces expression of the plasticity-related transcription factor Zif268 in a substantial fraction of 2-week-old but not 1-week-old neurons, suggesting the prosurvival effect of LTP can be observed in the absence of LTP-mediated Zif268 induction in newborn cells. Our results indicate that electrically induced LTP in the dentate gyrus in vivo provides a cellular/molecular environment that favors both proliferation and survival of adult-generated neurons.