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Selective inhibition of somatostatin-positive dentate hilar interneurons induces age-related cellular changes and cognitive dysfunction


The cellular basis of age-related impairments of hippocampal function is not fully understood. In order to evaluate the role of somatostatin-positive (Sst+) interneurons in the dentate gyrus (DG) hilus in this process, we chemogenetically inhibited Sst+ interneurons in the DG hilus. Chronic chemogenetic inhibition (CCI) of these neurons resulted in increased c-Fos staining in the DG hilus, a decrease in the percentage of GAD67- and of Sst-expressing interneurons in the DG, and increased microglial activation in DG, CA3, and CA1. Total dendritic length and spine density were reduced in DG and CA1, suggesting reduced dendritic complexity. Behaviorally, the recognition index in an object recognition task and the percentage of spontaneous alternations in the Y-maze were decreased, while in both initial and reversal learning in the Morris water maze, the latencies to find the hidden platform were increased, suggesting cognitive dysfunction. Our findings establish a causal role for a reduced function of Sst+ interneurons in the DG hilus for cognitive decline and suggest that this reduced function may contribute to age-related impairments of learning and memory. Furthermore, our CCI mice may represent a cellularly defined model of hippocampal aging.

DOI: 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgad134