Newborn granule cells in the ageing dentate gyrus

J Physiol. 2008 Aug 15;586(16):3751-7. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2008.154807. Epub 2008 Jun 19.


The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus generates neurons throughout life, but adult neurogenesis exhibits a marked age-dependent decline. Although the decrease in the rate of neurogenesis has been extensively documented in the ageing hippocampus, the specific characteristics of dentate granule cells born in such a continuously changing environment have received little attention. We have used retroviral labelling of neural progenitor cells of the adult mouse dentate gyrus to study morphological properties of neurons born at different ages. Dendritic spine density was measured to estimate glutamatergic afferent connectivity. Fully mature neurons born at the age of 2 months display approximately 2.3 spines microm(-1) and maintain their overall morphology and spine density in 1-year-old mice. Surprisingly, granule cells born in 10-month-old mice, at which time the rate of neurogenesis has decreased by approximately 40-fold, reach a density of dendritic spines similar to that of neurons born in young adulthood. Therefore, in spite of the sharp decline in cell proliferation, differentiation and overall neuronal number, the ageing hippocampus presents a suitable environment for new surviving neurons to reach a high level of complexity, comparable to that of all other dentate granule cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*