Development of the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) in the mammalian brain is achieved through multiple processes during late embryonic and postnatal stages, with each developmental step being strictly governed by extracellular cues and intracellular mechanisms. Here, we show that the maintenance DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) is critical for development of the DG in the mouse. Deletion of Dnmt1 in neural stem cells (NSCs) at the beginning of DG development led to a smaller size of the granule cell layer in the DG. NSCs lacking Dnmt1 failed to establish proper radial processes or to migrate into the subgranular zone, resulting in aberrant neuronal production in the molecular layer of the DG and a reduction of integrated neurons in the granule cell layer. Interestingly, prenatal deletion of Dnmt1 in NSCs affected not only the developmental progression of the DG but also the properties of NSCs maintained into adulthood: Dnmt1-deficient NSCs displayed impaired neurogenic ability and proliferation. We also found that Dnmt1 deficiency in NSCs decreased the expression of Reelin signaling components in the developing DG and increased that of the cell cycle inhibitors p21 and p57 in the adult DG. Together, these findings led us to propose that Dnmt1 functions as a key regulator to ensure the proper development of the DG, as well as the proper status of NSCs maintained into adulthood, by modulating extracellular signaling and intracellular mechanisms.
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