In the mammalian brain, new neurons are continuously generated throughout life in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus. Previous studies have established that newborn neurons migrate a short distance to be integrated into a pre-existing neuronal circuit in the hippocampus. How the migration of newborn neurons is governed by extracellular signals, however, has not been fully understood. Here, we report that NMDA receptor (NMDA-R)-mediated signaling is essential for the proper migration and positioning of newborn neurons in the DG. An intraperitoneal injection of the NMDA-R antagonists, memantine, or 3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP) into adult male mice caused the aberrant positioning of newborn neurons, resulting in the overextension of their migration in the DG. Interestingly, we revealed that the administration of NMDA-R antagonists leads to a decrease in the expression of Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), a candidate susceptibility gene for major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, which is also known as a critical regulator of neuronal migration in the DG. Furthermore, the overextended migration of newborn neurons induced by the NMDA-R antagonists was significantly rescued by exogenous expression of DISC1. Collectively, these results suggest that the NMDA-R signaling pathway governs the migration of newborn neurons via the regulation of DISC1 expression in the DG.
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