, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 497-512
Date: 09 Dec 2009

Three-dimensional ultrastructural and immunohistochemical study of immature neurons in the subgranular zone of the rat dentate gyrus

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The present study is devoted to three-dimensional ultrastructural organization of mitotically dividing immature neurons in dentate gyrus using biophysical approaches. In adult vertebrate brain, cell proliferation persists throughout life mainly in dentate gyrus of the hippocampus (DG) and olfactory bulb. Neurogenesis has been demonstrated using tagged thymidine analogues incorporated into the S phase of the cell cycle, but these may also detect repaired DNA in postmitotic neurons. Recent retroviral labelling has shown that neuronal progenitors/neuroblasts divide and produce functional neurons. Providing ultrastructural evidence of mitotically active cells has proven problematical, not only because of technical issues of identifying dividing cells at electron microscope level, but also because it is difficult to demonstrate unequivocally that neurons identified in the electron microscope are really post mitotic. However by characterising post mitotic cells labelled with BrdU and doublecortin and comparing these with post mitotic cells reconstructed in 3-dimensions from ultrathin serial sections, we have been able to illustrate individual mitotic elements and phases of cells within the GC layer of adult rat dentate gyrus. Here we show dividing cells in metaphase within clusters of immature GCs in subgranular zone (SGZ). These reconstructions provide ultrastructural confirmation that cells expressing doublecortin (DCX), a microtubule-associated protein expressed in migrating neurons, localize as clusters in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of dentate gyrus (DG) in the hippocampus during all animal life. Such DG cells with clear synaptic specializations, somatic spines and basal dendrites are exclusive to immature GC that appear to re-enter the cell cycle, suggesting the possibility that newly generated neurons within the DG might arise not only from precursors, but also from clusters of immature GC.