Locomotion dependent neuron-glia interactions control neurogenesis and regeneration in the adult zebrafish spinal cord

Nat Commun. 2021 Aug 11;12(1):4857. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25052-1.


Physical exercise stimulates adult neurogenesis, yet the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. A fundamental component of the innate neuroregenerative capacity of zebrafish is the proliferative and neurogenic ability of the neural stem/progenitor cells. Here, we show that in the intact spinal cord, this plasticity response can be activated by physical exercise by demonstrating that the cholinergic neurotransmission from spinal locomotor neurons activates spinal neural stem/progenitor cells, leading to neurogenesis in the adult zebrafish. We also show that GABA acts in a non-synaptic fashion to maintain neural stem/progenitor cell quiescence in the spinal cord and that training-induced activation of neurogenesis requires a reduction of GABAA receptors. Furthermore, both pharmacological stimulation of cholinergic receptors, as well as interference with GABAergic signaling, promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Our findings provide a model for locomotor networks' activity-dependent neurogenesis during homeostasis and regeneration in the adult zebrafish spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Locomotion*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Recovery of Function
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / growth & development*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Zebrafish
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid