The orphan nuclear receptor TLX is predominantly expressed in the central nervous system and is an important factor regulating the maintenance and self-renewal of neural stem cells from embryonic development through adulthood. In adolescence and adulthood, TLX expression is restricted to the neurogenic niches of the brain: the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the subventricular zone. The adolescent period is critical for maturation of the hippocampus with heightened levels of neurogenesis observed in rodents. Therefore, we investigated whether lentiviral silencing of TLX expression (TLX knockdown) in the dorsal dentate gyrus of juvenile rats incurred differential impairments in behaviour during late adolescence and adulthood. Our results showed that knockdown of TLX in the dorsal dentate gyrus led to a decrease in cell proliferation in the dorsal but not ventral dentate gyrus.
At a behavioural level we observed differential effects in adolescence and adulthood across a number of parameters. A hyperactive phenotype was present in adolescent but not adult TLX knockdown rats, and an increase in immobility during adolescence and in swimming frequency during adulthood was observed in the forced swim test. There was an increased defecation frequency in the open field during adulthood but not adolescence.
There were no changes in cognitive performance on hippocampus-dependent tasks or in anxiety-related behaviours. In conclusion, silencing of TLX in the dorsal dentate gyrus led to impairments in hippocampal-independent behaviours which either did not persist or were reversed during adulthood. The current data highlight the temporal importance and function of the nuclear receptor TLX during development.