The molecular mechanisms underlying the generation, maturation, and integration of new granule cells generated throughout life in the mammalian hippocampus remain poorly understood. Small Rho GTPases, such as Cdc42 and Rac1, have been implicated previously in neural stem/progenitor cell (NSPC) proliferation and neuronal maturation during embryonic development. Here we used conditional genetic deletion and virus-based loss-of-function approaches to identify temporally distinct functions for Cdc42 and Rac1 in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. We found that Cdc42 is involved in mouse NSPC proliferation, initial dendritic development, and dendritic spine maturation. In contrast, Rac1 is dispensable for early steps of neuronal development but is important for late steps of dendritic growth and spine maturation. These results establish cell-autonomous and stage-specific functions for the small Rho GTPases Cdc42 and Rac1 in the course of adult hippocampal neurogenesis.
Journal of Neuroscience, 2013, Vol 33, Issue 3, p. 1179-89