Adult-born dentate granule cells integrate into the hippocampal network, extend neurites and form synapses in otherwise mature tissue. Excitatory and inhibitory inputs innervate these new granule cells in a stereotyped, temporally segregated manner, which presents a unique opportunity to study synapse development in the adult brain. To examine the role of neuroligins as synapse-inducing molecules in vivo, we infected dividing neural precursors in adult mice with a retroviral construct that increased neuroligin-1 levels during granule cell differentiation. By 21 days post-mitosis, exogenous neuroligin-1 was expressed at the tips of dendritic spines and increased the number of dendritic spines. Neuroligin-1-overexpressing cells showed a selective increase in functional excitatory synapses and connection multiplicity by single afferent fibers, as well as an increase in the synaptic AMPA/NMDA receptor ratio. In contrast to its synapse-inducing ability in vitro, neuroligin-1 overexpression did not induce precocious synapse formation in adult-born neurons. However, the dendrites of neuroligin-1-overexpressing cells did have more thin protrusions during an early period of dendritic outgrowth, suggesting enhanced filopodium formation or stabilization. Our results indicate that neuroligin-1 expression selectively increases the degree, but not the onset, of excitatory synapse formation in adult-born neurons.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)