Effects of environmental complexity on neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus

Rizzi, Simona (2008) Effects of environmental complexity on neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Neurofisiologia, 20 Ciclo.
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Introduction. Postnatal neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, can be modulated by numerous determinants, such as hormones, transmitters and stress. Among the factors positively interfering with neurogenesis, the complexity of the environment appears to play a particularly striking role. Adult mice reared in an enriched environment produce more neurons and exhibit better performance in hippocampus-specific learning tasks. While the effects of complex environments on hippocampal neurogenesis are well documented, there is a lack of information on the effects of living under socio-sensory deprivation conditions. Due to the immaturity of rats and mice at birth, studies dealing with the effects of environmental enrichment on hippocampal neurogenesis were carried out in adult animals, i.e. during a period of relatively low rate of neurogenesis. The impact of environment is likely to be more dramatic during the first postnatal weeks, because at this time granule cell production is remarkably higher than at later phases of development. The aim of the present research was to clarify whether and to what extent isolated or enriched rearing conditions affect hippocampal neurogenesis during the early postnatal period, a time window characterized by a high rate of precursor proliferation and to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these effects. The experimental model chosen for this research was the guinea pig, a precocious rodent, which, at 4-5 days of age can be independent from maternal care. Experimental design. Animals were assigned to a standard (control), an isolated, or an enriched environment a few days after birth (P5-P6). On P14-P17 animals received one daily bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) injection, to label dividing cells, and were sacrificed either on P18, to evaluate cell proliferation or on P45, to evaluate cell survival and differentiation. Methods. Brain sections were processed for BrdU immunhistochemistry, to quantify the new born and surviving cells. The phenotype of the surviving cells was examined by means of confocal microscopy and immunofluorescent double-labeling for BrdU and either a marker of neurons (NeuN) or a marker of astrocytes (GFAP). Apoptotic cell death was examined with the TUNEL method. Serial sections were processed for immunohistochemistry for i) vimentin, a marker of radial glial cells, ii) BDNF (brain-derived neurotrofic factor), a neurotrophin involved in neuron proliferation/survival, iii) PSA-NCAM (the polysialylated form of the neural cell adhesion molecule), a molecule associated with neuronal migration. Total granule cell number in the dentate gyrus was evaluated by stereological methods, in Nissl-stained sections. Results. Effects of isolation. In P18 isolated animals we found a reduced cell proliferation (-35%) compared to controls and a lower expression of BDNF. Though in absolute terms P45 isolated animals had less surviving cells than controls, they showed no differences in survival rate and phenotype percent distribution compared to controls. Evaluation of the absolute number of surviving cells of each phenotype showed that isolated animals had a reduced number of cells with neuronal phenotype than controls. Looking at the location of the new neurons, we found that while in control animals 76% of them had migrated to the granule cell layer, in isolated animals only 55% of the new neurons had reached this layer. Examination of radial glia cells of P18 and P45 animals by vimentin immunohistochemistry showed that in isolated animals radial glia cells were reduced in density and had less and shorter processes. Granule cell count revealed that isolated animals had less granule cells than controls (-32% at P18 and -42% at P45). Effects of enrichment. In P18 enriched animals there was an increase in cell proliferation (+26%) compared to controls and a higher expression of BDNF. Though in both groups there was a decline in the number of BrdU-positive cells by P45, enriched animals had more surviving cells (+63) and a higher survival rate than controls. No differences were found between control and enriched animals in phenotype percent distribution. Evaluation of the absolute number of cells of each phenotype showed that enriched animals had a larger number of cells of each phenotype than controls. Looking at the location of cells of each phenotype we found that enriched animals had more new neurons in the granule cell layer and more astrocytes and cells with undetermined phenotype in the hilus. Enriched animals had a higher expression of PSA-NCAM in the granule cell layer and hilus Vimentin immunohistochemistry showed that in enriched animals radial glia cells were more numerous and had more processes.. Granule cell count revealed that enriched animals had more granule cells than controls (+37% at P18 and +31% at P45). Discussion. Results show that isolation rearing reduces hippocampal cell proliferation but does not affect cell survival, while enriched rearing increases both cell proliferation and cell survival. Changes in the expression of BDNF are likely to contribute to he effects of environment on precursor cell proliferation. The reduction and increase in final number of granule neurons in isolated and enriched animals, respectively, are attributable to the effects of environment on cell proliferation and survival and not to changes in the differentiation program. As radial glia cells play a pivotal role in neuron guidance to the granule cell layer, the reduced number of radial glia cells in isolated animals and the increased number in enriched animals suggests that the size of radial glia population may change dynamically, in order to match changes in neuron production. The high PSA-NCAM expression in enriched animals may concur to favor the survival of the new neurons by facilitating their migration to the granule cell layer. Conclusions. By using a precocious rodent we could demonstrate that isolated/enriched rearing conditions, at a time window during which intense granule cell proliferation takes place, lead to a notable decrease/increase of total granule cell number. The time-course and magnitude of postnatal granule cell production in guinea pigs are more similar to the human and non-human primate condition than in rats and mice. Translation of current data to humans would imply that exposure of children to environments poor/rich of stimuli may have a notably large impact on dentate neurogenesis and, very likely, on hippocampus dependent memory functions.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Rizzi, Simona
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
30 Maggio 2008

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