Abrogation of atypical neurogenesis and vascular-derived EphA4 prevents repeated mild TBI-induced learning and memory impairments


Brain injury resulting from repeated mild traumatic insult is associated with cognitive dysfunction and other chronic co-morbidities. The current study tested the effects of aberrant neurogenesis in a mouse model of repeated mild traumatic brain injury (rmTBI). Using Barnes Maze analysis, we found a significant reduction in spatial learning and memory at 24 days post-rmTBI compared to repeated sham (rSham) injury. Cell fate analysis showed a greater number of BrdU-labeled cells which co-expressed Prox-1 in the DG of rmTBI-injured mice which coincided with enhanced cFos expression for neuronal activity. We then selectively ablated dividing neural progenitor cells using a 7-day continuous infusion of Ara-C prior to rSham or rmTBI. This resulted in attenuation of cFos and BrdU-labeled cell changes and prevented associated learning and memory deficits. We further showed this phenotype was ameliorated in EphA4f.(/f)/Tie2-Cre knockout compared to EphA4f.(/f) wild type mice, which coincided with altered mRNA transcript levels of MCP-1, Cx43 and TGF beta. These findings demonstrate that cognitive decline is associated with an increased presence of immature neurons and gene expression changes in the DG following rmTBI. Our data also suggests that vascular EphA4-mediated neurogenic remodeling adversely affects learning and memory behavior in response to repeated insult.