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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jun 8;287(24):20356-68. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.349738. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Conditional deletion of Notch1 and Notch2 genes in excitatory neurons of postnatal forebrain does not cause neurodegeneration or reduction of Notch mRNAs and proteins.

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  • 1Center for Neurologic Diseases, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Activation of Notch signaling requires intramembranous cleavage by γ-secretase to release the intracellular domain. We previously demonstrated that presenilin and nicastrin, components of the γ-secretase complex, are required for neuronal survival in the adult cerebral cortex. Here we investigate whether Notch1 and/or Notch2 are functional targets of presenilin/γ-secretase in promoting survival of excitatory neurons in the adult cerebral cortex by generating Notch1, Notch2, and Notch1/Notch2 conditional knock-out (cKO) mice. Unexpectedly, we did not detect any neuronal degeneration in the adult cerebral cortex of these Notch cKO mice up to ∼2 years of age, whereas conditional inactivation of presenilin or nicastrin using the same αCaMKII-Cre transgenic mouse caused progressive, striking neuronal loss beginning at 4 months of age. More surprisingly, we failed to detect any reduction of Notch1 and Notch2 mRNAs and proteins in the cerebral cortex of Notch1 and Notch2 cKO mice, respectively, even though Cre-mediated genomic deletion of the floxed Notch1 and Notch2 exons clearly took place in the cerebral cortex of these cKO mice. Furthermore, introduction of Cre recombinase into primary cortical cultures prepared from postnatal floxed Notch1/Notch2 pups, where Notch1 and Notch2 are highly expressed, completely eliminated their expression, indicating that the floxed Notch1 and Notch2 alleles can be efficiently inactivated in the presence of Cre. Together, these results demonstrate that Notch1 and Notch2 are not involved in the age-related neurodegeneration caused by loss of presenilin or γ-secretase and suggest that there is no detectable expression of Notch1 and Notch2 in pyramidal neurons of the adult cerebral cortex.

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