Neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus continues into adulthood, yet little is known about the function of newly born neurons or how they integrate into an existing network of mature neurons. We made transgenic mice that selectively and transiently express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) in newly born granule cells of the dentate gyrus under the transcriptional control of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) genomic sequences. Analysis of transgenic pedigrees with truncation or deletion mutations indicated that EGFP expression in the dentate gyrus required cryptic POMC promoter regions dispensable for arcuate hypothalamic or pituitary expression. Unlike arcuate neurons, dentate granule cells did not express the endogenous POMC gene. EGFP-positive neurons had immature properties, including short spineless dendrites and small action potentials. Colocalization with bromodeoxyuridine indicated that EGFP-labeled granule cells were 2 weeks postmitotic. EGFP-labeled cells expressed markers for immature granule cells but not the glial marker GFAP. The number of EGFP-labeled neurons declined with age and increased with exercise, paralleling neurogenesis. Our results indicate that POMC-EGFP marks immature granule cells and that adult-generated granule cells integrate quite slowly into the hippocampal circuitry.
Previously published in Journal of Neuroscience, March 2004, 23(13), pp. 3251–3259 http://www.jneurosci.org/content/24/13/3251