Deficits in the Notch pathway are involved in a number of neurologic diseases associated with mental retardation or/and dementia. The mechanisms by which Notch dysregulation are associated with mental retardation and dementia are poorly understood. We found that Notch1 is highly expressed in the adult-born immature neurons in the hippocampus of mice. Retrovirus mediated knockout of notch1 in single adult-born immature neurons decreases mTOR signaling and compromises their dendrite morphogenesis. In contrast, overexpression of Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD), to constitutively activate Notch signaling in single adult-born immature neurons, promotes mTOR signaling and increases their dendrite arborization. Using a unique genetic approach to conditionally and selectively knockout notch 1 in the postnatally born immature neurons in the hippocampus decreases mTOR signaling, compromises their dendrite morphogenesis, and impairs spatial learning and memory. Conditional overexpression of NICD in the postnatally born immature neurons in the hippocampus increases mTOR signaling and promotes dendrite arborization. These data indicate that Notch signaling plays a critical role in dendrite development of immature neurons in the postnatal brain, and dysregulation of Notch signaling in the postnatally born neurons disrupts their development and thus contributes to the cognitive deficits associated with neurological diseases.
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