Neuroligin-1 Overexpression in Newborn Granule Cells In Vivo

Eric Schnell, Ae Soon L. Bensen, Eric K. Washburn, Gary L. Westbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Adult-born dentate granule cells integrate into the hippocampal network, extend neurites and form synapses in otherwise mature tissue. Excitatory and inhibitory inputs innervate these new granule cells in a stereotyped, temporally segregated manner, which presents a unique opportunity to study synapse development in the adult brain. To examine the role of neuroligins as synapse-inducing molecules in vivo, we infected dividing neural precursors in adult mice with a retroviral construct that increased neuroligin-1 levels during granule cell differentiation. By 21 days post-mitosis, exogenous neuroligin-1 was expressed at the tips of dendritic spines and increased the number of dendritic spines. Neuroligin-1-overexpressing cells showed a selective increase in functional excitatory synapses and connection multiplicity by single afferent fibers, as well as an increase in the synaptic AMPA/NMDA receptor ratio. In contrast to its synapse-inducing ability in vitro, neuroligin-1 overexpression did not induce precocious synapse formation in adult-born neurons. However, the dendrites of neuroligin-1-overexpressing cells did have more thin protrusions during an early period of dendritic outgrowth, suggesting enhanced filopodium formation or stabilization. Our results indicate that neuroligin-1 expression selectively increases the degree, but not the onset, of excitatory synapse formation in adult-born neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere48045
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 22 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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