Cortical neurogenesis enhanced by chronic perinatal hypoxia

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Abstract

Most regions of the mature mammalian brain, including the cerebral cortex, appear to be unable to support the genesis of new neurons. Here, we report that a low level of neurogenesis occurs in the cerebral cortex of the infant mouse brain and is enhanced by chronic perinatal hypoxia. When mice were reared in a low-oxygen environment from postnatal days 3 to 11, approximately 30% of the cortical neurons were lost after the insult; yet this damage was transient. The loss of cortical neuron number, cortical volume, and brain weight were all reversed during the recovery period. At P18, 7 days after the cessation of hypoxia, there was a marked increase in astroglial cell proliferation within the SVZ, as assessed by 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation in S-phase cells. One month after BrdU incorporation, 40% more BrdU-positive cells were found in the cerebral cortex of hypoxic-reared as compared to normoxic control mice. Among these newly generated cortical cells, approximately 45% were oligodendrocytes, 35% were astrocytes, and 10% were neurons in both hypoxic and normoxic mice. However, twice as many BrdU-labeled cells expressed neuronal markers in the neocortex in mice recovering from hypoxia as compared to controls. In both hypoxic-reared and normoxic infant/juvenile mice, putative neuroblasts could be seen detaching from the forebrain subventricular zone, migrating through the subcortical white matter and entering the lower cortical layers, 5 to 11 days after their last mitotic division. We suggest that cortical neurogenesis may play a significant role in repairing neuronal losses after neonatal injury.

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