Hippocampal neurogenesis and cortical cellular plasticity in Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat: A qualitative and quantitative study
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Species-specific characteristics of neuronal plasticity emerging from comparative studies can address the functional relevance of hippocampal or cortical plasticity in the light of ecological adaptation and evolutionary history of a given species. Here, we present a quantitative and qualitative analysis of neurogenesis in young and adult free-living Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bats. Using the markers for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), doublecortin (DCX) and polysialic acid neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM), our findings in the hippocampus, olfactory bulb and cortical regions are described and compared to reports in other mammals. Expressed as a percentage of the total number of granule cells, PCNA- and BrdU-positive cells accounted for 0.04 in young to 0.01% in adult animals; DCX-positive cells for 0.05 (young) to 0.01% (adult); PSA-NCAM-positive cells for 0.1 (young) to 0.02% (adult), and pyknotic cells for 0.007 (young) to 0.005% (adult). The numbers were comparable to other long-lived, late-maturing mammals such as primates. A significant increase in the total granule cell number from young to adult animals demonstrated the successful formation and integration of new cells. In adulthood, granule cell number appeared stable and was surprisingly low in comparison to other species. Observations in the olfactory bulb and rostral migratory stream were qualitatively similar to descriptions in other species. In the ventral horn of the lateral ventricle, we noted prominent expression of DCX and PSA-NCAM forming a temporal migratory stream targeting the piriform cortex, possibly reflecting the importance of olfaction to these species. Low, but persistent hippocampal neurogenesis in non-echolocating fruit bats contrasted the findings in echolocating microbats, in which hippocampal neurogenesis was largely absent. Together with the observed intense cortical plasticity in the olfactory system of fruit bats we suggest a differential influence of sensory modalities on hippocampal and cortical plasticity in this mammalian order.