Adult neurogenesis, the generation of new neurons from adult precursor cells, occurs in the brains of a phylogenetically diverse array of animals. In the higher (amniotic) vertebrates, these precursor cells are glial cells that reside within specialized regions, known as neurogenic niches, the elements of which both support and regulate neurogenesis. The in vivo identity and location of the precursor cells responsible for adult neurogenesis in nonvertebrate taxa, however, remain largely unknown. Among the invertebrates, adult neurogenesis has been particularly well characterized in freshwater crayfish (Arthropoda, Crustacea), although the identity of the precursor cells sustaining continuous neuronal proliferation in these animals has yet to be established. Here we provide evidence suggesting that, as in the higher vertebrates, the precursor cells maintaining adult neurogenesis in the crayfish Procambarus clarkii are glial cells. These precursor cells reside within a specialized region, or niche, on the ventral surface of the brain, and their progeny migrate from this niche along glial fibers and then proliferate to form new neurons in the central olfactory pathway. The niche in which these precursor cells reside has many features in common with the neurogenic niches of higher vertebrates. These commonalities include: glial cells functioning as both precursor and support cells, directed migration, close association with the brain vasculature, and specialized basal laminae. The cellular machinery maintaining adult neurogenesis appears, therefore, to be shared by widely disparate taxa. These extensive structural and functional parallels suggest a common strategy for the generation of new neurons in adult brains.
- Neurogenic niche
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