In mammals, olfactory bulb granule cells (GCs) are generated throughout life in the subventricular zone. GABAergic inputs onto newborn neurons likely regulate their maturation, but the details of this process remain still elusive. Here, we investigated the differentiation, synaptic integration, and survival of adult-born GCs when their afferent GABAergic inputs are challenged by conditional gene targeting. Migrating GC precursors were targeted with Cre-eGFP-expressing lentiviral vectors in mice with a floxed gene encoding the GABA A receptorα2-subunit (i.e., Gabra2). Ablation of theα2-subunit did not affect GC survival but dramatically delayed their maturation. We found a reduction in postsynaptic α2-subunit and gephyrin clusters accompanied by a decrease in the frequency and amplitude of GABAergic postsynaptic currents beginning~14 d post-injection (dpi). In addition, mutant cells exhibited altered dendritic branching and spine density. Spine loss appeared with mislocation of glutamatergic synapses on dendritic shafts and a reduction of spontaneous glutamatergic postsynaptic currents, underscoring the relevance of afferent GABAergic transmission for a proper synaptic integration of newborn GCs. To test the role of GABAergic signaling during much early stages of GC maturation, we used a genetic strategy to selectively inactivate Gabra2 in precursor cells of the subventricular zone. In these mice, labeling of newborn GCs with eGFP lentiviruses revealed similar morphological alterations as seen on delayed Gabra2 inactivation in migrating neuroblasts, with reduced dendritic branching and spine density at 7 dpi. Collectively, these results emphasize the critical role of GABAergic synaptic signaling for structural maturation of adult-born GCs and formation of glutamatergic synapses.
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