Glucocorticoids (GCs) secreted after stress reduce adult hippocampal neurogenesis, a process that has been implicated in cognitive aspects of psychopathology, amongst others. Yet, the exact role of the GC receptor (GR), a key mediator of GC action, in regulating adult neurogenesis is largely unknown. Here, we show that GR knockdown, selectively in newborn cells of the hippocampal neurogenic niche, accelerates their neuronal differentiation and migration. Strikingly, GR knockdown induced ectopic positioning of a subset of the new granule cells, altered their dendritic complexity and increased their number of mature dendritic spines and mossy fiber boutons. Consistent with the increase in synaptic contacts, cells with GR knockdown exhibit increased basal excitability parallel to impaired contextual freezing during fear conditioning. Together, our data demonstrate a key role for the GR in newborn hippocampal cells in mediating their synaptic connectivity and structural as well as functional integration into mature hippocampal circuits involved in fear memory consolidation.
Molecular Psychiatry (2013) 18, 993–1005;