The brain can generate new neurons from neural stem cells throughout life. However, the capacity for neurogenesis declines with age, reducing the potential for learning and repair. We explored the effects of calorie restriction, an established anti-aging intervention, on neural stem cells in the subventricular zone of young and aged mice. Calorie restriction transiently enhanced proliferation of neural progenitor cells in young, but not aged mice. However, calorie restriction prevented the age-related loss of neurogenesis in the aged brain. Calorie-restricted mice showed enhanced olfactory memory compared with ad libitum-fed controls, suggesting that calorie restriction can produce functional improvements in the aged brain. Calorie restriction also mitigated the age-related activation of microglia and subsequent increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. Likewise, calorie restriction prevented increases in senescent cells normally observed in the subventricular zone in aged mice, further protecting this neurogenic niche from pro-inflammatory signals. Together, these data suggest that calorie restriction protects the subventricular zone microenvironment from age-related inflammation, thereby preserving neurogenesis into old age.
Keywords: calorie restriction; inflammation; neural stem cell; neurogenesis; olfactory memory; subventricular zone.