Recent studies suggest that adult neurogenesis can contribute significantly to recovery from brain damage. As a result, there is strong interest in the field in identifying potentially therapeutic factors capable of promoting increased expansion of endogenous neural stem cell (NSC) populations and increased neurogenesis. In the present study, we have investigated the effects of PACAP on the NSC populations of the embryonic and adult forebrain. Our results demonstrate that the PACAP receptor, PAC1-R, is expressed by both embryonic and adult NSCs. The activation of PACAP signaling in vitro enhanced NSC proliferation/survival through a protein kinase A (PKA)-independent mechanism. In contrast, PACAP promoted NSC self-renewal and neurogenesis through a mechanism dependent on PKA activation. Finally, we determined that the intracerebroventricular infusion of PACAP into the adult forebrain was sufficient to increase neurogenesis significantly in both the hippocampus and the subventricular zone. These results demonstrate PACAP is unique in that it is capable of promoting NSC proliferation/survival, self-renewal, and neurogenesis and, therefore, may be ideal for promoting the endogenous regeneration of damaged brain tissue.
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