Mifepristone prevents stress-induced apoptosis in newborn neurons and increases AMPA receptor expression in the dentate gyrus of C57/BL6 mice.

Llorens-Martín M, Trejo JL.

PLoS One.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028376.

Chronic stress produces sustained elevation of corticosteroid levels, which is why it is considered one of the most potent negative regulators of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN). Several mood disorders are accompanied by elevated glucocorticoid levels and have been linked to alterations in AHN, such as major depression (MD). Nevertheless, the mechanism by which acute stress affects the maturation of neural precursors in the dentate gyrus is poorly understood. We analyzed the survival and differentiation of 1 to 8 week-old cells in the dentate gyrus of female C57/BL6 mice following exposure to an acute stressor (the Porsolt or forced swimming test). Furthermore, we evaluated the effects of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist mifepristone on the cell death induced by the Porsolt test. Forced swimming induced selective apoptotic cell death in 1 week-old cells, an effect that was abolished by pretreatment with mifepristone. Independent of its antagonism of GR, mifepristone also induced an increase in the percentage of 1 week-old cells that were AMPA(+). We propose that the induction of AMPA receptor expression in immature cells may mediate the neuroprotective effects of mifepristone, in line with the proposed antidepressant effects of AMPA receptor potentiators.

GSK3β is involved in the relief of mitochondria pausing in a Tau-dependent manner.

Llorens-Martín M, López-Doménech G, Soriano E, Avila J.

PLoS One.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027686.

Mitochondrial trafficking deficits have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). The Ser/Thre kinase GSK3β is believed to play a fundamental role in AD pathogenesis. Given that GSK3β substrates include Tau protein, here we studied the impact of GSK3β on mitochondrial trafficking and its dependence on Tau protein. Overexpression of GSK3β in neurons resulted in an increase in motile mitochondria, whereas a decrease in the activity of this kinase produced an increase in mitochondria pausing. These effects were dependent on Tau proteins, as Tau (-/-) neurons did not respond to distinct GSK3β levels. Furthermore, differences in GSK3β expression did not affect other parameters like mitochondria velocity or mitochondria run length. We conclude that GSK3B activity regulates mitochondrial axonal trafficking largely in a Tau-dependent manner.

Different susceptibility to neurodegeneration of dorsal and ventral hippocampal dentate gyrus: a study with transgenic mice overexpressing GSK3β.

Fuster-Matanzo A, Llorens-Martín M, de Barreda EG, Ávila J, Hernández F.

PLoS One.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027262.

Dorsal hippocampal regions are involved in memory and learning processes, while ventral areas are related to emotional and anxiety processes. Hippocampal dependent memory and behaviour alterations do not always come out in neurodegenerative diseases at the same time. In this study we have tested the hypothesis that dorsal and ventral dentate gyrus (DG) regions respond in a different manner to increased glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) levels in GSK3β transgenic mice, a genetic model of neurodegeneration. Reactive astrocytosis indicate tissue stress in dorsal DG, while ventral area does not show that marker. These changes occurred with a significant reduction of total cell number and with a significantly higher level of cell death in dorsal area than in ventral one as measured by fractin-positive cells. Biochemistry analysis showed higher levels of phosphorylated GSK3β in those residues that inactivate the enzyme in hippocampal ventral areas compared with dorsal area suggesting that the observed susceptibility is in part due to different GSK3 regulation. Previous studies carried out with this animal model had demonstrated impairment in Morris Water Maze and Object recognition tests point out to dorsal hippocampal atrophy. Here, we show that two tests used to evaluate emotional status, the light-dark box and the novelty suppressed feeding test, suggest that GSK3β mice do not show any anxiety-related disorder. Thus, our results demonstrate that in vivo overexpression of GSK3β results in dorsal but not ventral hippocampal DG neurodegeneration and suggest that both areas do not behave in a similar manner in neurodegenerative processes.

Expression of frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism associated to chromosome 17 tau induces specific degeneration of the ventral dentate gyrus and depressive-like behavior in mice.

Llorens-Martin M, Hernandez F, Avila J.

doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.08.057.

When bearing certain frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism (FTDP) mutations, overexpression of human tau resulted in a decrease of the dentate gyrus ventral blade, apparently due to a reduction in the proliferation of neuronal precursors and an increase in neuronal cell death. This degenerative process was accompanied by a dramatic increase in behavioral despair, as evident in the Porsolt swim test. Interestingly, we observed an increase in GABAergic innervation in the molecular layer of the dorsal dentate gyrus but not in the ventral domain. We suggest that this increase in GABAergic innervation reflects a compensatory neuroprotective response to the overexpression of toxic tau, which may prevent or delay degeneration in the dorsal blade of the dental gyrus. Finally, we suggest that this transgenic mouse, which overexpresses human FTPD tau, may serve as a useful model to study specific functions of the ventral dentate gyrus.

Antidepressant and proneurogenic influence of environmental enrichment in mice: protective effects vs recovery.

Llorens-Martín M, Tejeda GS, Trejo JL.

doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.134.

Physical-cognitive activity has long-lasting beneficial effects on the brain and on behavior. Environmental enrichment (EE) induces brain activity known to influence the behavior of mice, as measured in learned helplessness paradigms (forced swim test), and neurogenic cell populations in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. However, it is not completely clear whether the antidepressant and proneurogenic effects of EE are different in animals that are naive or pre-exposed to the stress inducing helplessness, and if this depends on the type of stressor. It also remains unclear whether differential effects are exerted on distinct neurogenic subpopulations. We found that EE has a protective effect in adult female mice (C57BL/6J) when exposed twice to the same stressor (forced swim test) but it has no influence on recovery. The repeated exposure to this stressor was analyzed together with the effects of EE on different neurogenic populations distinguished by age and differentiation state. Younger cells are more sensitive and responsive to the conditions, both the positive and negative effects. These results are relevant to identify the cell populations that are the targets of stress, depression, and enrichment, and that form part of the mechanism responsible for mood dysfunctions.

Multiple birthdating analyses in adult neurogenesis: a line-up of the usual suspects.

Llorens-Martín M, Trejo JL.

Frontiers in Neuroscience. 
doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00076.

Analyzing the variation in different subpopulations of newborn neurons is central to the study of adult hippocampal neurogenesis. The acclaimed working hypothesis that different subpopulations of newborn, differentiating neurons could be playing different roles arouses great interest. Therefore, the physiological and quantitative analysis of neuronal subpopulations at different ages is critical to studies of neurogenesis. Such approaches allow cells of different ages to be identified by labeling them according to their probable date of birth. Until very recently, only neurons born at one specific time point could be identified in each experimental animal. However the introduction of different immunohistochemically compatible markers now enables multiple subpopulations of newborn neurons to be analyzed in the same animal as in a line-up, revealing the relationships between these subpopulations in response to specific influences or conditions. This review summarizes the current research carried out using these techniques and outlines some of the key applications.


Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO) Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Campus de Cantoblanco)
C/ Nicolás Cabrera 1 - 28049 Madrid (Spain)

María Llorens-Martín (PI)
+34 911964632