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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Jan 12;363(1489):101-22.

Proliferation, neurogenesis and regeneration in the non-mammalian vertebrate brain.

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  • 1Biotechnology Centre and Centre for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, Dresden University of Technology, Tatzberg 47-51, 01307 Dresden, Germany.


Post-embryonic neurogenesis is a fundamental feature of the vertebrate brain. However, the level of adult neurogenesis decreases significantly with phylogeny. In the first part of this review, a comparative analysis of adult neurogenesis and its putative roles in vertebrates are discussed. Adult neurogenesis in mammals is restricted to two telencephalic constitutively active zones. On the contrary, non-mammalian vertebrates display a considerable amount of adult neurogenesis in many brain regions. The phylogenetic differences in adult neurogenesis are poorly understood. However, a common feature of vertebrates (fish, amphibians and reptiles) that display a widespread adult neurogenesis is the substantial post-embryonic brain growth in contrast to birds and mammals. It is probable that the adult neurogenesis in fish, frogs and reptiles is related to the coordinated growth of sensory systems and corresponding sensory brain regions. Likewise, neurons are substantially added to the olfactory bulb in smell-oriented mammals in contrast to more visually oriented primates and songbirds, where much fewer neurons are added to the olfactory bulb. The second part of this review focuses on the differences in brain plasticity and regeneration in vertebrates. Interestingly, several recent studies show that neurogenesis is suppressed in the adult mammalian brain. In mammals, neurogenesis can be induced in the constitutively neurogenic brain regions as well as ectopically in response to injury, disease or experimental manipulations. Furthermore, multipotent progenitor cells can be isolated and differentiated in vitro from several otherwise silent regions of the mammalian brain. This indicates that the potential to recruit or generate neurons in non-neurogenic brain areas is not completely lost in mammals. The level of adult neurogenesis in vertebrates correlates with the capacity to regenerate injury, for example fish and amphibians exhibit the most widespread adult neurogenesis and also the greatest capacity to regenerate central nervous system injuries. Studying these phenomena in non-mammalian vertebrates may greatly increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying regeneration and adult neurogenesis. Understanding mechanisms that regulate endogenous proliferation and neurogenic permissiveness in the adult brain is of great significance in therapeutical approaches for brain injury and disease.

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