Interplay of maternal care and genetic influences in programming adult hippocampal neurogenesis

Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Aug 15;72(4):282-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.03.001. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


Background: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which is involved in the physiopathology of hippocampal functions, is genetically determined and influenced by early life events. However, studies on the interaction of these determining forces are lacking. This prompted us to investigate whether adult hippocampal neurogenesis can be modulated by maternal care and whether this influence depends upon the genetic background of the individual.

Methods: We used a model of fostering that allows singling out the influence of the genetic make-up of the pups on the outcome of maternal behavior. Mice from two different inbred strains (C57BL/6J and DBA/2J) known to differ in their baseline neurogenesis as well as in their sensitivity to the influence of environmental experiences were raised by nonrelated mothers from the AKR/Ola (AKR) and C3H/He (C3H) strains exhibiting low- and high-pup-oriented behavior, respectively. Neurogenesis was then assessed in the dentate gyrus of the adult adopted C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice.

Results: We show that both the number and the morphological features of newborn granule cells in the dentate gyrus are determined by the maternal environment to which mice were exposed as pups and that this sensitivity to maternal environment is observed only in genetically vulnerable subjects.

Conclusions: Altogether, our data indicate interplay between early environment and the genetic envelop of an individual in determining adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Our experimental approach could thus contribute to the identification of factors determining the neurogenic potential of the adult hippocampus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Dendrites / genetics*
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dentate Gyrus / anatomy & histology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / physiology
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology