Discovery of Novel Hippocampal Neurogenic Agents By
Using an in vivo Stable Isotope Labeling Technique

Shankaran M, King C, Lee J, Busch R, Wolff M, Hellerstein MK.
KineMed, Inc.
J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Sep 14;


Neurogenesis occurs in discrete regions of adult mammalian brain, including the subgranular zone of the hippocampus. Hippocampal neurogenesis is enhanced by different classes of antidepressants, but screening for neurogenic actions of novel antidepressants has been inefficient due to limitations of BrdU labeling techniques. We describe an efficient in vivo method for measuring hippocampal neurogenesis, involving incorporation of the stable isotope, (2)H, into genomic DNA during labeling with (2)H2O (heavy water). Male rodents received 8-10% (2)H2O in drinking water; DNA was isolated from hippocampal progenitor cells or neurons. Label incorporation into progenitor cells of Swiss Webster mice revealed subpopulation kinetics: 16% divided with t1/2 of 2.7 weeks; the remainder did not divide over 1 year. Progenitor cell proliferation rates in mice were strain-dependent. Chronic antidepressant treatment for 3 weeks, with (2)H2O administered during the final week, increased progenitor cell proliferation across all strains tested. Fluoxetine treatment increased (2)H incorporation into DNA of gradient-enriched neurons or flow-sorted neuronal nuclei, 4 weeks after (2)H2O labeling, representing the survival and differentiation of newly divided cells into neurons. By screening 11 approved drugs for effects on progenitor cell proliferation, we detected previously unrecognized, dose-dependent enhancement of hippocampal progenitor cell proliferation by two statins and by the anticonvulsant, topiramate. We also confirmed stimulatory activity of other anticonvulsants and demonstrated inhibition of progenitor cell proliferation by isotretinoin and prednisolone. In conclusion, stable isotope labeling is an efficient, high-throughput in vivo method for measuring hippocampal progenitor cell proliferation that can be used to screen for novel neurogenic drugs.
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