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J Neurosci. 2000 Aug 15;20(16):6095-105.

Unique expression patterns of cell fate molecules delineate sequential stages of dentate gyrus development.

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Department of Neurology, Epilepsy Research Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus is uniquely organized with a displaced proliferative zone that continues to generate dentate granule cells throughout life. We have analyzed the expression of Notch receptors, Notch ligands, and basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) genes during dentate gyrus development to determine whether the need to maintain a pool of undifferentiated precursors is reflected in the patterns of expression of these genes. Many of these genes are expressed diffusely throughout the cortical neuroepithelium at embryonic days 16 and 17 in the rat, just preceding the migration of newly born granule cells and dentate precursor cells into the dentate anlage. However, at this time, Mash1, Math3, and Id3 expression are all concentrated in the area that specifically gives rise to granule cells and dentate precursor cells. Two days later, at the time of migration of the first granule cells and dentate precursor cells, cells expressing Mash1 are seen in the migratory route from the subventricular zone to the developing dentate gyrus. Newly born granule cells expressing NeuroD are also present in this migratory pathway. In the first postnatal week, precursor cells expressing Mash1 reside in the dentate hilus, and by the third postnatal week they have largely taken up their final position in the subgranular zone along the hilar side of the dentate granule cell layer. After terminal differentiation, granule cells born in the hilus or the subgranular zone begin to express NeuroD followed by NeuroD2. This study establishes that the expression patterns of bHLH mRNAs evolve during the formation of the dentate gyrus, and the precursor cells resident in the mature dentate gyrus share features with precursor cells found in development. Thus, many of the same mechanisms that are known to regulate cell fate and precursor pool size in other brain regions are likely to be operative in the dentate gyrus at all stages of development.

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