Despite representing only a small fraction of hippocampal granule cells, adult-generated newborn granule cells have been implicated in learning and memory (Aimone et al., 2011). Newborn granule cells undergo functional maturation and circuit integration over a period of weeks. However, it is difficult to assess the accompanying gene expression profiles in vivo with high spatial and temporal resolution using traditional methods. Here we used a novel method ["thiouracil (TU) tagging"] to map the profiles of nascent mRNAs in mouse immature newborn granule cells compared with mature granule cells. We targeted a nonmammalian uracil salvage enzyme, uracil phosphoribosyltransferase, to newborn neurons and mature granule cells using retroviral and lentiviral constructs, respectively. Subsequent injection of 4-TU tagged nascent RNAs for analysis by RNA sequencing. Several hundred genes were significantly enhanced in the retroviral dataset compared with the lentiviral dataset. We compared a selection of the enriched genes with steady-state levels of mRNAs using quantitative PCR. Ontology analysis revealed distinct patterns of nascent mRNA expression, with newly generated immature neurons showing enhanced expression for genes involved in synaptic function, and neural differentiation and development, as well as genes not previously associated with granule cell maturation. Surprisingly, the nascent mRNAs enriched in mature cells were related to energy homeostasis and metabolism, presumably indicative of the increased energy demands of synaptic transmission and their complex dendritic architecture. The high spatial and temporal resolution of our modified TU-tagging method provides a foundation for comparison with steady-state RNA analyses by traditional transcriptomic approaches in defining the functional roles of newborn neurons.
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