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Neuron. 2010 Mar 25;65(6):859-72. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.03.009.

NMDA receptors activated by subventricular zone astrocytic glutamate are critical for neuroblast survival prior to entering a synaptic network.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8082, USA.


Even before integrating into existing circuitry, adult-born neurons express receptors for neurotransmitters, but the intercellular mechanisms and their impact on neurogenesis remain largely unexplored. Here, we show that neuroblasts born in the postnatal subventricular zone (SVZ) acquire NMDA receptors (NMDARs) during their migration to the olfactory bulb. Along their route, neuroblasts are ensheathed by astrocyte-like cells expressing vesicular glutamate release machinery. Increasing calcium in these specialized astrocytes induced NMDAR activity in neuroblasts, and blocking astrocytic vesicular release eliminated spontaneous NMDAR activity. Single-cell knockout of NMDARs using neonatal electroporation resulted in neuroblast apoptosis at the time of NMDAR acquisition. This cumulated in a 40% loss of neuroblasts along their migratory route, demonstrating that NMDAR acquisition is critical for neuroblast survival prior to entering a synaptic network. In addition, our findings suggest an unexpected mechanism wherein SVZ astrocytes use glutamate signaling through NMDARs to control the number of adult-born neurons reaching their final destination.

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