Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Lentivirus-mediated transgene delivery to the hippocampus reveals sub-field specific differences in expression

Lenneke WA van Hooijdonk1, Muhammad Ichwan1, Thomas F Dijkmans1, Theo G Schouten1, Marijke WA de Backer2, Roger AH Adan2, Fons J Verbeek3, Erno Vreugdenhil1 and Carlos P Fitzsimons1*

Author affiliations

1 Medical Pharmacology Department, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden University, the Netherlands

2 Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands

3 Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science, Section Imaging & BioInformatics, Leiden University, the Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-2

Published: 13 January 2009



In the adult hippocampus, the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus is a heterogeneous structure formed by neurons of different ages, morphologies and electrophysiological properties. Retroviral vectors have been extensively used to transduce cells of the granule cell layer and study their inherent properties in an intact brain environment. In addition, lentivirus-based vectors have been used to deliver transgenes to replicative and non-replicative cells as well, such as post mitotic neurons of the CNS. However, only few studies have been dedicated to address the applicability of these widespread used vectors to hippocampal cells in vivo. Therefore, the aim of this study was to extensively characterize the cell types that are effectively transduced in vivo by VSVg-pseudotyped lentivirus-based vectors in the hippocampus dentate gyrus.


In the present study we used Vesicular Stomatitis Virus G glycoprotein-pseudotyped lentivirual vectors to express EGFP from three different promoters in the mouse hippocampus. In contrast to lentiviral transduction of pyramidal cells in CA1, we identified sub-region specific differences in transgene expression in the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus. Furthermore, we characterized the cell types transduced by these lentiviral vectors, showing that they target primarily neuronal progenitor cells and immature neurons present in the sub-granular zone and more immature layers of the granule cell layer.


Our observations suggest the existence of intrinsic differences in the permissiveness to lentiviral transduction among various hippocampal cell types. In particular, we show for the first time that mature neurons of the granule cell layer do not express lentivirus-delivered transgenes, despite successful expression in other hippocampal cell types. Therefore, amongst hippocampal granule cells, only adult-generated neurons are target for lentivirus-mediated transgene delivery. These properties make lentiviral vectors excellent systems for overexpression or knockdown of genes in neuronal progenitor cells, immature neurons and adult-generated neurons of the mouse hippocampus in vivo.