Background: Adult neurogenesis, which is the continual production of new neurons in the mature brain, demonstrates the strikingly plastic nature of the nervous system. Adult neural stem cells and their neural precursors, collectively referred to as neural progenitor cells (NPCs), are present in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the dentate gyrus, the subventricular zone (SVZ), and rostral migratory stream (RMS). In order to harness the potential of NPCs to treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain injuries, it will be important to understand the molecules that regulate NPCs in the adult brain. The genetic basis underlying NPC proliferation is still not fully understood. From our previous quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis, we had success in using a relatively small reference population of recombinant inbred strains of mice (AXBXA) to identify a genetic region that is significantly correlated with NPC proliferation in the RMS.
Results: In this study, we expanded our initial QTL mapping of RMS proliferation to a far richer genetic resource, the BXD RI mouse strains. A 3-fold difference in the number of proliferative, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-labeled cells was quantified in the adult RMS of 61 BXD RI strains. RMS cell proliferation is highly dependent on the genetic background of the mice with an estimated heritability of 0.58. Genome-wide mapping revealed a significant QTL on chromosome (Chr) 6 and a suggestive QTL on Chr 11 regulating the number of NPCs in the RMS. Composite interval analysis further revealed secondary QTLs on Chr 14 and Chr 18. The loci regulating RMS cell proliferation did not overlap with the suggestive loci modulating cell proliferation in the SGZ. These mapped loci serve as starting points to identify genes important for this process. A subset of candidate genes in this region is associated with cell proliferation and neurogenesis. Interconnectivity of these candidate genes was demonstrated using pathway and transcriptional covariance analyses.
Conclusions: Differences in RMS cell proliferation across the BXD RI strains identifies genetic loci that serve to provide insights into the interplay of underlying genes that may be important for regulating NPC proliferation in the adult mouse brain.