Irreversibly Instructed to Become Glia

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Science  16 Jun 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5473, pp. 1935
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5473.1935c

Stem cells in the mammalian neural crest (NCSCs) can differentiate into neurons, glia, or smooth muscle cells. As the peripheral nervous system is formed, migrating NCSCs first differentiate into neurons in response to neurogenic factors like the BMPs (bone morphogenetic proteins); later, in spite of continued exposure to BMPs, the NCSCs form glial cells (which surround the cell bodies of the neurons). Morrison et al. used rat NCSCs to show that exposure to a soluble form of the Notch receptor ligand, Delta-1, could inhibit neurogenesis induced by BMP2 and promote formation of glial cells. This activation was irreversible and cell-heritable, unlike in Drosophila and Xenopus where Notch appears to work transiently and reversibly, leaving stem cells competent to assume multiple fates. In the mammalian system, it seems that the initial differentiation of neurons can trigger the sequential formation of glia by activating Notch signals in neighboring stem cells. These signals appear to inhibit the capacity of the NCSCs to form neurons while instructing them to adopt a glial cell fate.—LBR

Cell101, 499 (2000).

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