Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Dynamic Fas signaling network regulates neural stem cell proliferation and memory enhancement

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Science Advances  22 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 17, eaaz9691
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz9691


Activation of Fas (CD95) is observed in various neurological disorders and can lead to both apoptosis and prosurvival outputs, yet how Fas signaling operates dynamically in the hippocampus is poorly understood. The optogenetic dissection of a signaling network can yield molecular-level explanations for cellular responses or fates, including the signaling dysfunctions seen in numerous diseases. Here, we developed an optogenetically activatable Fas that works in a physiologically plausible manner. Fas activation in immature neurons of the dentate gyrus triggered mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation and subsequent brain-derived neurotrophic factor secretion. Phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (Erk) in neural stem cells was induced under prolonged Fas activation. Repetitive activation of this signaling network yielded proliferation of neural stem cells and a transient increase in spatial working memory in mice. Our results demonstrate a novel Fas signaling network in the dentate gyrus and illuminate its consequences for adult neurogenesis and memory enhancement.

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