Age-dependent role for Ras-GRF1 in the late stages of adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus

Hippocampus. 2014 Mar;24(3):315-25. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22225.


The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus plays a pivotal role in pattern separation, a process required for the behavioral task of contextual discrimination. One unique feature of the dentate gyrus that contributes to pattern separation is adult neurogenesis, where newly born neurons play a distinct role in neuronal circuitry. Moreover,the function of neurogenesis in this brain region differs in adolescent and adult mice. The signaling mechanisms that differentially regulate the distinct steps of adult neurogenesis in adolescence and adulthood remain poorly understood. We used mice lacking RASGRF1(GRF1), a calcium-dependent exchange factor that regulates synaptic plasticity and participates in contextual discrimination performed by mice, to test whether GRF1 plays a role in adult neurogenesis.We show Grf1 knockout mice begin to display a defect in neurogenesis at the onset of adulthood (~2 months of age), when wild-type mice first acquire the ability to distinguish between closely related contexts. At this age, young hippocampal neurons in Grf1 knockout mice display severely reduced dendritic arborization. By 3 months of age, new neuron survival is also impaired. BrdU labeling of new neurons in 2-month-old Grf1 knockout mice shows they begin to display reduced survival between 2 and 3 weeks after birth, just as new neurons begin to develop complex dendritic morphology and transition into using glutamatergic excitatory input. Interestingly, GRF1 expression appears in new neurons at the developmental stage when GRF1 loss begins to effect neuronal function. In addition, we induced a similar loss of new hippocampal neurons by knocking down expression of GRF1 solely in new neurons by injecting retrovirus that express shRNA against GRF1 into the dentate gyrus. Together, these findings show that GRF1 expressed in new neurons promotes late stages of adult neurogenesis. Overall our findings show GRF1 to be an age-dependent regulator of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which contributes to ability of mice to distinguish closely related contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development
  • Dentate Gyrus / metabolism*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Doublecortin-Like Kinases
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / deficiency
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / analysis
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • ras-GRF1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ras-GRF1 / deficiency
  • ras-GRF1 / genetics
  • ras-GRF1 / physiology*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • ras-GRF1
  • Fluoxetine
  • Doublecortin-Like Kinases
  • Dclk1 protein, mouse
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases