Caffeine compromises proliferation of human hippocampal progenitor cells

Vikki Houghton, Andrea Du Preez, Sophie Lefevre-Arbogast, Chiara De Lucia, Dorrain Low, Mireia Urpi-Sarda, Silvie R. Ruigrok, Barbara Altendorfer, Raúl González-Domínguez, Cristina Andres-Lacueva, Ludwig Aigner, Paul J. Lucassen, Aniko Korosi, Cécilia Samieri, Claudine Manach, Sandrine Thuret

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The age-associated reduction in the proliferation of neural stem cells (NSCs) has been associated with cognitive decline. Numerous factors have been shown to modulate this process, including dietary components. Frequent consumption of caffeine has been correlated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, but further evidence of a negative effect on hippocampal progenitor proliferation is limited to animal models. Here, we used a human hippocampal progenitor cell line to investigate the effects of caffeine on hippocampal progenitor integrity and proliferation specifically. The effects of five caffeine concentrations (0 mM = control, 0.1 mM ∼ 150 mg, 0.25 mM ∼ 400 mg, 0.5 mM ∼ 750 mg, and 1.0 mM ∼ 1500 mg) were measured following acute (1 day) and repeated (3 days) exposure. Immunocytochemistry was used to quantify hippocampal progenitor integrity (i.e., SOX2- and Nestin-positive cells), proliferation (i.e., Ki67-positive cells), cell count (i.e., DAPI-positive cells), and apoptosis (i.e., CC3-positive cells). We found that progenitor integrity was significantly reduced in supraphysiological caffeine conditions (i.e., 1.0 mM ∼ 1500 mg), but relative to the lowest caffeine condition (i.e., 0.1 mM ∼ 150 mg) only. Moreover, repeated exposure to supraphysiological caffeine concentrations (i.e., 1.0 mM ∼ 1500 mg) was found to affect proliferation, significantly reducing % Ki67-positive cells relative to control and lower caffeine dose conditions (i.e., 0.1 mM ∼ 150 mg and 0.25 mM ∼ 400 mg). Caffeine treatment did not influence apoptosis and there were no significant differences in any measure between lower doses of caffeine (i.e., 0.1 mM, 0.25 mM, 0.5 mM) – representative of daily human caffeine intake – and control conditions. Our study demonstrates that dietary components such as caffeine can influence NSC integrity and proliferation and may be indicative of a mechanism by which diet affects cognitive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number806
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2020


  • adult hippocampal neurogenesis
  • caffeine
  • diet
  • hippocampal progenitor integrity
  • hippocampal progenitor proliferation

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