The Notch signaling pathway plays an important role in the regulation of neurogenesis. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the Notch signaling pathway was involved in the neurogenesis impairment and long-term neurocognitive dysfunction caused by neonatal exposure to ketamine. On postnatal day 7 (PND-7), male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were intraperitoneally injected with 40 mg/kg ketamine four consecutive times (40 mg/kg × 4) at 1-h intervals. Notch ligand Jagged1 (0.5 mg/kg) and lentivirus overexpressing the Notch1 intracellular domain (LV-NICD1) were microinjected into the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) 1 h or 4 days before ketamine administration, respectively. The expression of Notch1 signaling pathway-related proteins was detected by Western blotting 24 h after ketamine administration. The proliferation and differentiation of the neural stem cells (NSCs) in the hippocampal DG were evaluated by double immunofluorescence staining 24 h after treatment. Moreover, changes in hippocampus-dependent spatial memory of 2-month-old rats were investigated with the Morris water maze test. Ketamine anesthesia in neonatal rats decreased the expression levels of Jagged1, Notch1, NICD1, and hairy enhancer of split 1 (Hes1); inhibited the proliferation and astrocytic differentiation of NSCs; and promoted the differentiation of neurons. Neonatal exposure to ketamine caused deficits in hippocampus-dependent spatial reference memory tasks in 2-month-old rats. Microinjection of Jagged1 or LV-NICD1 reversed the inhibitory effect of ketamine on the expression of Notch1-related proteins in the hippocampal DG, attenuated the ketamine-mediated decrease in NSC proliferation and differentiation, and improved the cognitive function of 2-month-old rats after neonatal exposure to ketamine. These results suggest that neonatal exposure to ketamine in rats inhibits the proliferation and differentiation of hippocampal NSCs and impairs neurocognitive function in adulthood. The Notch1 signaling pathway may be involved in the impairment of hippocampus-dependent learning and memory during adulthood caused by neonatal exposure to ketamine. These findings contribute to further understanding the neurotoxicity induced by neonatal exposure to ketamine and the underlying mechanisms.

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He Huang et al.
Molecular Neurobiology September 2021