Overexpression of GAP-43 reveals unexpected properties of hippocampal mossy fibers

Jerome L. Rekart, Aryeh Routtenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The mossy fiber (MF) system targets the apical dendrites of CA3 pyramidal cells in the stratum lucidum (SL). In mice overexpressing the growth-associated protein GAP-43 there is an apparent ectopic growth of these MFs into the stratum oriens (SO) targeting the basal dendrites of these same pyramidal cells (Aigner et al. (1995) Cell 83:269-278). This is the first evidence to our knowledge that links increased GAP-43 expression with growth of central axons. Here we studied the Aigner et al. transgenic mice but were unable to confirm such growth into SO. However, using quantitative methods we did observe enhanced growth within the regions normally targeted by MFs, for example, the SL in the CA3a region. These contrasting results led us to study MFs with double-immunostaining using an immunohistochemical marker for MFs, the zinc transporter, ZnT3, to visualize the colocalization of transgenic GAP-43 within MFs. Unexpectedly, using both fluorescence and confocal microscopy, we were unable to detect colocalization of GAP-43-positive axons with ZnT3-positive MF axons within the MF pathways, either in the region of the MF axons or in the SL, where MF terminals are abundant. In contrast, the plasma membrane-associated presynaptic marker SNAP-25 did colocalize with transgenic GAP-43-positive terminals in the SL. Synaptophysin, the vesicle-associated presynaptic terminal marker, colocalized with ZnT3 but did not appear to colocalize with GAP-43. The present findings raise important questions about the properties of granule cells and the MF mechanisms that differentially regulate axonal remodeling in the adult hippocampus: (1) Because there appears to be at least two populations of granule cells defined by their differential protein expression, this points to the existence of an intrinsic heterogeneity of granule cell expression beyond that contributed by adult neurogenesis; (2) Given the present evidence that growth is induced in mice overexpressing GAP-43 in adjacent non-GAP-43 containing MFs, the potential exists for a heretofore unexplored interaxonal communication mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • GAP-43
  • Granule cell
  • Hippocampus
  • Mossy fibers
  • ZnT3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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