28 September 2011
In the olfactory bulb of adult rodents, local interneurons are constantly replaced by immature precursors derived from the subventricular zone. Whether any olfactory sensory process specifically relies on this cell renewal remains largely unclear. By using the well known model of mating-induced imprinting to avoid pregnancy block, which requires accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) function, we demonstrate that this olfactory memory formation critically depends on the presence of newborn granule neurons in this brain region. We show that, in adult female mice, exposure to the male urine compounds involved in mate recognition increases the number of new granule cells surviving in the AOB. This process is modulated by male signals sensed through the vomeronasal organ and, in turn, changes the activity of the downstream amygdaloid and hypothalamic nuclei involved in the pregnancy block response. Chemical depletion of newly generated bulbar interneurons causes strong impairment in mate recognition, thus resulting in a high pregnancy failure rate to familiar mating male odors. Taken together, our results indicate that adult neurogenesis is essential for specific brain functions such as persistent odor learning and mate recognition.