Adult neurogenesis is the process by which neural stem cells give rise to new functional neurons in specific regions of the adult brain, a process that occurs throughout life. Significantly, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders present suppressed neurogenesis, activated microglia, and neuroinflammation. Traffic-related air pollution has been shown to adversely affect the central nervous system. As the cardinal effects of air pollution exposure are microglial activation, and ensuing oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, we investigated whether acute exposures to diesel exhaust (DE) would inhibit adult neurogenesis in mice. Mice were exposed for 6 h to DE at a PM2.5 concentration of 250-300 mu g/m(3), followed by assessment of adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal subgranular zone (SGZ), the subventricular zone (SVZ), and olfactory bulb (OB). DE impaired cellular proliferation in the SGZ and SVZ in males, but not females. DE reduced adult neurogenesis, with male mice showing fewer new neurons in the SGZ, SVZ, and OB, and females showing fewer new neurons only in the OB. To assess whether blocking microglial activation protected against DE-induced suppression of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, male mice were pre-treated with pioglitazone (PGZ) prior to DE exposure. The effects of DE exposure on microglia, as well as neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, were reduced by PGZ. PGZ also antagonized DE-induced suppression of neurogenesis in the SGZ. These results suggest that DE exposure impairs adult neurogenesis in a sex-dependent manner, by a mechanism likely to involve microglia activation and neuroinflammation.
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