NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity are thought to underlie the assembly of developing neuronal circuits and to play a crucial role in learning and memory. It remains unclear how NMDAR might contribute to the wiring of adult-born granule cells (GCs). Here we demonstrate that nascent GCs lacking NMDARs but rescued from apoptosis by overexpressing the pro-survival protein Bcl2 were deficient in spine formation. Insufficient spinogenesis might be a general cause of cell death restricted within the NMDAR-dependent critical time window for GC survival. NMDAR loss also led to enhanced mushroom spine formation and synaptic AMPAR activity throughout the development of newborn GCs. Moreover, similar elevated synapse maturation in the absence of NMDARs was observed in neonate-generated GCs and CA1 pyramidal neurons. Together, these data suggest that NMDAR operates as a molecular monitor for controlling the activity-dependent establishment and maturation rate of synaptic connections between newborn neurons and others.
Keywords: NMDA receptor; adult neurogenesis; mouse; neuroscience; spine.