Gerd Kempermann

Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen, Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Are you Gerd Kempermann?

Claim your profile

Publications (145)1048.36 Total impact

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Studies using the Morris water maze to assess hippocampal function in animals, in which adult hippocampal neurogenesis had been suppressed, have yielded seemingly contradictory results. Cyclin D2 knockout (Ccnd2−/−) mice, for example, have constitutively suppressed adult hippocampal neurogenesis but had no overt phenotype in the water maze. In other paradigms, however, ablation of adult neurogenesis was associated with specific deficits in the water maze. We therefore hypothesized that the neurogenesis-related phenotype might also become detectable in Ccnd2−/− mice, if we used the exact set-up and protocol that in our previous study had revealed deficits in mice with suppressed adult neurogenesis. Ccnd2−/− mice indeed learned the task and developed a normal preference for the goal quadrant, but were significantly less precise for the exact goal position and were slower in acquiring efficient and spatially more precise search strategies. Upon goal-reversal (when the hidden platform was moved to a new position) Ccnd2−/− mice showed increased perseverance at the former platform location, implying that they were less flexible in updating the previously learned information. Both with respect to adult neurogenesis and behavioral performance, Ccnd2+/− mice ranged between wildtypes and knockouts. Importantly, hippocampus-dependent learning was not generally impaired by the mutation, but specifically functional aspects relying on precise and flexible encoding were affected. Whether ablation of adult neurogenesis causes a specific behavioral phenotype thus also depends on the actual task demands. The test parameters appear to be important variables influencing whether a task can pick up a contribution of adult neurogenesis to test performance.
    Genes Brain and Behavior 03/2014; · 3.60 Impact Factor
  • Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In the adult brain, new neurons are produced in two "canonical" regions: the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb. Ernst et al. now show that, unlike other species, humans also display robust neurogenesis in the striatum, an unexpected finding with important physiological, pathological, and evolutionary implications.
    Cell 02/2014; 156(5):870-1. · 31.96 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Tara L Walker, Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The neurosphere assay and the adherent monolayer culture system are valuable tools to determine the potential (proliferation or differentiation) of adult neural stem cells in vitro. These assays can be used to compare the precursor potential of cells isolated from genetically different or differentially treated animals to determine the effects of exogenous factors on neural precursor cell proliferation and differentiation and to generate neural precursor cell lines that can be assayed over continuous passages. The neurosphere assay is traditionally used for the post-hoc identification of stem cells, primarily due to the lack of definitive markers with which they can be isolated from primary tissue and has the major advantage of giving a quick estimate of precursor cell numbers in brain tissue derived from individual animals. Adherent monolayer cultures, in contrast, are not traditionally used to compare proliferation between individual animals, as each culture is generally initiated from the combined tissue of between 5-8 animals. However, they have the major advantage that, unlike neurospheres, they consist of a mostly homogeneous population of precursor cells and are useful for following the differentiation process in single cells. Here, we describe, in detail, the generation of neurosphere cultures and, for the first time, adherent cultures from individual animals. This has many important implications including paired analysis of proliferation and/or differentiation potential in both the subventricular zone (SVZ) and dentate gyrus (DG) of treated or genetically different mouse lines, as well as a significant reduction in animal usage.
    Journal of Visualized Experiments 01/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We have previously hypothesized that the reason why physical activity increases precursor cell proliferation in adult neurogenesis is that movement serves as non-specific signal to evoke the alertness required to meet cognitive demands. Thereby a pool of immature neurons is generated that are potentially recruitable by subsequent cognitive stimuli. Along these lines, we here tested whether auditory stimuli might exert a similar non-specific effect on adult neurogenesis in mice. We used the standard noise level in the animal facility as baseline and compared this condition to white noise, pup calls, and silence. In addition, as patterned auditory stimulus without ethological relevance to mice we used piano music by Mozart (KV 448). All stimuli were transposed to the frequency range of C57BL/6 and hearing was objectified with acoustic evoked potentials. We found that except for white noise all stimuli, including silence, increased precursor cell proliferation (assessed 24 h after labeling with bromodeoxyuridine, BrdU). This could be explained by significant increases in BrdU-labeled Sox2-positive cells (type-1/2a). But after 7 days, only silence remained associated with increased numbers of BrdU-labeled cells. Compared to controls at this stage, exposure to silence had generated significantly increased numbers of BrdU/NeuN-labeled neurons. Our results indicate that the unnatural absence of auditory input as well as spectrotemporally rich albeit ethological irrelevant stimuli activate precursor cells-in the case of silence also leading to greater numbers of newborn immature neurons-whereas ambient and unstructured background auditory stimuli do not.
    Brain Structure and Function 12/2013; · 7.84 Impact Factor
  • Gerd Kempermann
    Science 06/2013; 340(6137):1180-1. · 31.20 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Brain plasticity as a neurobiological reflection of individuality is difficult to capture in animal models. Inspired by behavioral-genetic investigations of human monozygotic twins reared together, we obtained dense longitudinal activity data on 40 inbred mice living in one large enriched environment. The exploratory activity of the mice diverged over time, resulting in increasing individual differences with advancing age. Individual differences in cumulative roaming entropy, indicating the active coverage of territory, correlated positively with individual differences in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Our results show that factors unfolding or emerging during development contribute to individual differences in structural brain plasticity and behavior. The paradigm introduced here serves as an animal model for identifying mechanisms of plasticity underlying nonshared environmental contributions to individual differences in behavior.
    Science 05/2013; 340(6133):756-9. · 31.20 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Voluntary wheel running has long been known to induce precursor cell proliferation in adult hippocampal neurogenesis in rodents. However, mechanisms that couple activity with the promitotic effect are not yet fully understood. Using tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) 2 deficient (Tph2-deficient) mice that lack brain serotonin, we explored the relationship between serotonin signaling and exercise-induced neurogenesis. Surprisingly, Tph2-deficient mice exhibit normal baseline hippocampal neurogenesis but impaired activity-induced proliferation. Our data demonstrate that the proproliferative effect of running requires the release of central serotonin in young-adult and aged mice. Lack of brain serotonin further results in alterations at the stage of Sox2-positive precursor cells, suggesting physiological adaptations to changes in serotonin supply to maintain homeostasis in the neurogenic niche. We conclude that serotonin plays a direct and acute regulatory role in activity-dependent hippocampal neurogenesis. The understanding of exercise-induced neurogenesis might offer preventive but also therapeutic opportunities in depression and age-related cognitive decline.
    Journal of Neuroscience 05/2013; 33(19):8270-5. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is to a large degree controlled at the level of cell survival, and a number of potential mediators of this effect have been postulated. Here, we investigated the small heat shock protein Hspb8, which, because of its pleiotropic prosurvival effects in other systems, was considered a particularly promising candidate factor. Hspb8 is, for example, found in plaques of Alzheimer disease but exerts neuroprotective effects. We found that expression of Hspb8 increased during differentiation in vitro and was particularly associated with later stages (48 –96 h) of differentiation. Gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments supported the hypothesis that Hspb8 regulates cell survival of new neurons in vitro. In the dentate gyrus of adult mice in vivo, lentiviral overexpression of Hspb8 doubled the surviving cells and concomitantly promoted differentiation and net neurogenesis without affecting precursor cell prolifer-ation. We also discovered that the truncated form of the crystallin domain of Hspb8 was sufficient to affect cell survival and neuronal differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Precursor cell experiments in vitro revealed that Hspb8 increases the phosphorylation of Akt and suggested that the prosurvival effect can be produced by a cell-autonomous mechanism. Analysis of hippocampal Hspb8 expression in mice of 69 strains of the recombinant inbred set BXD revealed that Hspb8 is a cis-acting gene whose expression was associated with clusters of transcript enriched in genes linked to growth factor signaling and apoptosis. Our results strongly suggest that Hspb8 and its -crystallin domain might act as pleiotropic prosurvival factor in the adult hippocampus.
    Journal of Neuroscience 03/2013; 33((13)):5785-5796. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Prominin-1 (CD133) is commonly used to isolate stem and progenitor cells from the developing and adult nervous system and to identify cancer stem cells in brain tumors. However, despite extensive characterization of Prominin-1(+) precursor cells from the adult subventricular zone, no information about the expression of Prominin-1 by precursor cells in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the adult hippocampus has been available. We show here that Prominin-1 is expressed by a significant number of cells in the SGZ of adult mice in vivo and ex vivo, including postmitotic astrocytes. A small subset of Prominin-1(+) cells coexpressed the nonspecific precursor cell marker Nestin as well as GFAP and Sox2. Upon fluorescence-activated cell sorting, only Prominin-1/Nestin double-positive cells fulfilled the defining stem cell criteria of proliferation, self-renewal, and multipotentiality as assessed by a neurosphere assay. In addition, isolated primary Prominin-1(+) cells preferentially migrated to the neurogenic niche in the SGZ upon transplantation in vivo. Finally, despite its expression by various stem and progenitor cells, Prominin-1 turned out to be dispensable for precursor cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Nevertheless, a net decrease in hippocampal neurogenesis, by ∼30% was found in Prominin-1 knock-out mice, suggesting other roles in controlling adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Remarkably, an upregulation of Prominin-2 was detected in Prominin-1-deficient mice highlighting a potential compensatory mechanism, which might explain the lack of severe symptoms in individuals carrying mutations in the Prom1 gene.
    Journal of Neuroscience 02/2013; 33(7):3010-3024. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Alexander Garthe, Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Morris water maze represents the de-facto standard for testing hippocampal function in laboratory rodents. In the field of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, however, using this paradigm to assess the functional relevance of the new neurons yielded surprisingly inconsistent results. While some authors found aspects of water maze performance to be linked to adult neurogenesis, others obtained different results or could not demonstrate any effect of manipulating adult neurogenesis. In this review we discuss evidence that the large diversity of protocols and setups used is an important aspect in interpreting the differences in the results that have been obtained. Even simple parameters such as pool size, number, and configuration of visual landmarks, or number of trials can become highly relevant for getting the new neurons involved at all. Sets of parameters are often chosen with implicit or explicit concepts in mind and these might lead to different views on the function of adult-generated neurons. We propose that the classical parameters usually used to measure spatial learning performance in the water maze might not be particularly well-suited to sensitively and specifically detect the supposedly highly specific functional changes elicited by the experimental modulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis. As adult neurogenesis is supposed to affect specific aspects of information processing only in the hippocampus, any claim for a functional relevance of the new neurons has to be based on hippocampus-specific parameters. We also placed a special emphasis on the fact that the dentate gyrus (DG) facilitates the differentiation between contexts as opposed to just differentiating places. In conclusion, while the Morris water maze has proven to be one of the most effective testing paradigms to assess hippocampus-dependent spatial learning, new and more specific questions ask for new parameters. Therefore, the full potential of the water maze task remains to be tapped.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:63.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study builds on the findings that physical activity, such as wheel running in mice, enhances cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus of the common mouse strain C57BL/6, and that the baseline level of neurogenesis varies by strain, being considerably lower in DBA/2. Because C57BL/6 and DBA/2 are important as the parental strains of the BXD recombinant inbred cross which allows the detection of genetic loci regulating phenotypes such as adult neurogenesis, we performed the current study to investigate the gene x environment interactions regulating neurogenesis. At equal distances and times run DBA/2J mice lacked the acute increase in precursor cell proliferation known from C57BL/6. In DBA/2J proliferation even negatively correlated with the distance run. This was neither due to a stress response (to running itself or single housing) nor differences in estrous cycle. DBA/2 animals exhibited a delayed and weaker pro-neurogenic response with a significant increase in numbers of proliferating cells first detectable after more than a week of wheel running. The proliferative response to running was transient in both strains, the effect being undetectable by 6 weeks. There was also a small transient increase in the production of new neurons in DBA/2J, although these extra cells did not survive. These findings indicate that the comparison between C57BL/6 and DBA/2, and by extension the BXD genetic reference population derived from these strains, should provide a powerful tool for uncovering the complex network of modifier genes affecting the activity-dependent regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis. More generally, our findings also describe how the external physical environment interacts with the internal genetic environment to produce different responses to the same behavioral stimuli.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(12):e83797. · 3.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
  • Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Adult neurogenesis is often considered an archaic trait that has undergone a 'phylogenetic reduction' from amphibian ancestors to humans. However, adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus might actually be a late-evolved trait. In non-mammals, adult hippocampal neurogenesis is not restricted to the equivalents of the dentate gyrus, which also show different connectivity and functionality compared to their mammalian counterpart. Moving actively in a changing world and dealing with novelty and complexity regulate adult neurogenesis. New neurons might thus provide the cognitive adaptability to conquer ecological niches rich with challenging stimuli.
    Nature Reviews Neuroscience 09/2012; 13(10):727-36. · 31.38 Impact Factor
  • G Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Physical activity has direct and indirect effects on brain function in health and disease. Findings demonstrating that physical activity improves cognitive and non-cognitive functions and is preventive for several neuropsychiatric disorders have attracted particular interest. This short review focuses on sports and physical exercise in normal brain function and summarizes which mechanisms might underlie the observed effects, which methodological problems exist, which relationships exist to concepts of plasticity and neural reserves and what evolutionary relevance the initially surprising finding that physical exercise is good for the brain has.
    Der Internist 05/2012; 53(6):698-704. · 0.33 Impact Factor
  • Gerd Kempermann
    Science 03/2012; 335(6073):1175-6. · 31.20 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is not a single phenotype, but consists of a number of sub-processes, each of which is under complex genetic control. Interpretation of gene expression studies using existing resources often does not lead to results that address the interrelatedness of these processes. Formal structure, such as provided by ontologies, is essential in any field for comprehensive interpretation of existing knowledge but, until now, such a structure has been lacking for adult neurogenesis. We have created a resource with three components 1. A structured ontology describing the key stages in the development of adult hippocampal neural stem cells into functional granule cell neurons. 2. A comprehensive survey of the literature to annotate the results of all published reports on gene function in adult hippocampal neurogenesis (257 manuscripts covering 228 genes) to the appropriate terms in our ontology. 3. An easy-to-use searchable interface to the resulting database made freely available online. The manuscript presents an overview of the database highlighting global trends such as the current bias towards research on early proliferative stages, and an example gene set enrichment analysis. A limitation of the resource is the current scope of the literature which, however, is growing by around 100 publications per year. With the ontology and database in place, new findings can be rapidly annotated and regular updates of the database will be made publicly available. The resource we present allows relevant interpretation of gene expression screens in terms of defined stages of postnatal neuronal development. Annotation of genes by hand from the adult neurogenesis literature ensures the data are directly applicable to the system under study. We believe this approach could also serve as an example to other fields in a 'bottom-up' community effort complementing the already successful 'top-down' approach of the Gene Ontology.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(11):e48527. · 3.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Adult neurogenesis is an exceptional feature of the adult brain and in an intriguing way bridges between neuronal and glial neurobiology. Essentially, all classes of glial cells are directly or indirectly linked to this process. Cells with astrocytic features, for example, serve as radial glia-like stem cells in the two neurogenic regions of the adult brain, the hippocampal dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles, producing new neurons, create a microenvironment permissive for neurogenesis, and are themselves generated alongside the new neurons in an associated but independently regulated process. Oligodendrocytes are generated from precursor cells intermingled with those generating neurons in an independent lineage. NG2 cells have certain precursor cell properties and are found throughout the brain parenchyma. They respond to extrinsic stimuli and injury but do not generate neurons even though they can express some preneuronal markers. Microglia have positive and negative regulatory effects as constituents of the "neurogenic niche". Ependymal cells play incompletely understood roles in adult neurogenesis, but under certain conditions might exert (back-up) precursor cell functions. Glial contributions to adult neurogenesis can be direct or indirect and are mediated by mechanisms ranging from gap-junctional to paracrine and endocrine. As the two neurogenic regions differ between each other and both from the non-neurogenic rest of the brain, the question arises in how far regionalization of both the glia-like precursor cells as well as of the glial cells determines site-specific "neurogenic permissiveness." In any case, however, "neurogenesis" appears to be an essentially glial achievement.
    Glia 11/2011; 60(2):159-74. · 5.07 Impact Factor
  • Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The reports by Bonaguidi et al. (in this issue of Cell) and Encinas et al. (in Cell Stem Cell) come to differing conclusions about whether and how the proliferation of radial glia-like stem cells of the adult hippocampus impacts their long-term potential for neurogenesis.
    Cell 06/2011; 145(7):1009-11. · 31.96 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Proliferative cells expressing proteoglycan neuron-glia 2 (NG2) are considered to represent parenchymal precursor cells in the adult brain and are thought to differentiate primarily into oligodendrocytes. We have studied cell genesis in the adult amygdala and found that, up to 1 year after the labeling of proliferating cells with bromodeoxyuridine, most proliferating NG2 cells remain NG2 cells, and only a few slowly differentiate into mature oligodendrocytes, as assessed by the expression of 2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase. We have detected no signs of neurogenesis but have confirmed the expression of "neuronal" markers such as Doublecortin in NG2 cells. Nestin-expressing NG2 cells in the amygdala show electrophysiological properties known for oligodendrocyte precursor cells in the corpus callosum. Application of the glutamate agonist kainate elicits a "complex" response consisting of a rapid and long-lasting blockade of the resting K(+) conductance, a transient cationic current, and a transient increase of an outwardly directed K(+) conductance, suggesting the responsiveness of NG2 cells to excitation. Proliferation of NG2 cells increases in response to behavioral stimuli of activity, voluntary wheel running, and environmental enrichment. In addition to reducing the number of newborn microglia, behavioral activity results in a decrease in S100β-expressing newborn NG2 cells in the amygdala. Because S100β expression in NG2 cells ceases with oligodendrocyte maturation, this finding suggests that NG2 cells in the amygdala undergo activity-dependent functional alterations, without resulting in a measurable increase in new mature oligodendrocytes over the time period covered by the present study. The adult amygdala thus shows signs of mixed activity-dependent plasticity: reduced numbers of microglia and, presumably, an altered fate of NG2 cells.
    Cell and Tissue Research 06/2011; 345(1):69-86. · 3.68 Impact Factor
  • Gerd Kempermann
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Seven key elements describing the regulation of adult neurogenesis are proposed. (i) A distinction must be made between regulation and 'control' at the transcriptional level in order to appreciate the hierarchy of regulatory factors. (ii) The regulatory hierarchy comprises conceptual levels from behaviour to genes. Consequently, 'regulation' of neurogenesis can be confounded by confusing rather than integrating factors, levels and concepts. The immense spectrum of neurogenic regulators reflects the sensitivity of adult neurogenesis to many different types of stimuli, and provides a means of abstraction. (iii) Age per se does not seem to play a constant role in the modulation of this process, as the dramatic 'age-related' changes in adult neurogenesis only take place early in life. (iv) The regulatory hierarchy at any given time-point is corresponded by the directionality and sequential interdependence of different regulatory factors in the course of development. Regulation goes from non-specific to specific, and the following steps build on regulation at the previous ones. (v) This complexity is reflected at the genetic level in that adult neurogenesis is highly heritable and highly polygenic with single factors explaining little of the variance. (vi) As regulation is additive, there is an element of self-reinforcement in the regulation of adult neurogenesis, allowing the formation of regulatory reserves for situations of functional demand. (vii) The complexity of regulation makes adult neurogenesis sensitive to pathological disturbance at various levels, suggesting that different molecular events might result in similar and shared behavioural or functional phenotypes originating in the dentate gyrus.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 03/2011; 33(6):1018-24. · 3.75 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

16k Citations
1,048.36 Total Impact Points


  • 2011–2014
    • Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen
      Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
    • University of Leeds
      • School of Computing
      Leeds, ENG, United Kingdom
    • Stanford University
      • Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
      Stanford, CA, United States
    • Ghent University
      • Department of Morphology
      Gent, VLG, Belgium
    • University of Washington Seattle
      Seattle, Washington, United States
  • 2008–2014
    • Technische Universität Dresden
      • Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden
      Dresden, Saxony, Germany
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Brain Research Institute
      Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 2007–2013
    • Center for Regenerative Therapies, Dresden
      Dresden, Saxony, Germany
  • 2010
    • Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría
      Ciudad de México, The Federal District, Mexico
    • University of Freiburg
      Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
    • University of Zurich
      • Division of Cell Biology
      Zürich, ZH, Switzerland
  • 2004–2010
    • Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin
      • • Department of Neurology with Chair in Experimental Neurology/BNIC
      • • Center for Stroke Research Berlin
      Berlin, Land Berlin, Germany
    • The Jackson Laboratory
      Bar Harbor, Maine, United States
    • University of British Columbia - Vancouver
      • Department of Psychology
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2009
    • Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
      Dresden, Saxony, Germany
  • 2001–2009
    • Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin
      • Research Team Cellular Neurosciences
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
    • King's College London
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 1997–2008
    • Salk Institute
      • Laboratory of Genetics
      La Jolla, CA, United States
  • 2006
    • Massachusetts General Hospital
      • Department of Neurology
      Boston, MA, United States
  • 2002–2006
    • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
      • Institute for Theoretical Biology (ITB)
      Berlin, Land Berlin, Germany
  • 2003
    • Humboldt State University
      Arcata, California, United States
  • 1999–2002
    • Universität Regensburg
      • Lehrstuhl für Neurologie
      Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany
  • 1998
    • University of California, San Diego
      • Department of Neurosciences
      San Diego, CA, United States