Short-term and long-term survival of new neurons in the rat dentate gyrus

J Comp Neurol. 2003 Jun 9;460(4):563-72. doi: 10.1002/cne.10675.


New neurons continue to be generated in the dentate gyrus throughout adulthood. Previous studies have shown that a significant proportion of new granule cells labeled with the thymidine analogue bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) are lost from the adult dentate gyrus within 2 weeks. How long this loss continues and the extent to which it represents cell death, as opposed to dilution of label, is unclear. To address these questions, adult rats were injected with BrdU, and BrdU labeling in the dentate gyrus was compared at several survival time points. Double labeling with BrdU and the cell cycle marker Ki-67 showed that BrdU is detectable for up to 4 days in some cells that continue to divide, indicating that any decrease in the number of BrdU-labeled cells after 4 days is likely to reflect cell death rather than BrdU dilution. Death of new cells in the granule cell layer occurred at a steady rate between 6 and 28 days after labeling, resulting in loss of 50% of BrdU-labeled cells over this 22-day period. New granule cells that survived this first month lived for at least 5 additional months. In contrast, 26% of the granule cells labeled with BrdU at the peak of dentate gyrus development on postnatal day (P) 6 died between 1 and 6 months after labeling. These findings suggest that granule cells born during adulthood that become integrated into circuits and survive to maturity are very stable and may permanently replace granule cells born during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Survival
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development*
  • Dentate Gyrus / metabolism*
  • Mitosis
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors