Monday, 16 July 2012 23:01

Proliferative potential of neural progenitor cells Featured

The development of the cerebral cortex differs between humans and animals in size and shape due to the ability of nerve stem cells to divide, producing far more cells in human brains than in animals.

A research team led by Prof. Wieland Huttner from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden in collaboration with Prof. Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have studied a mechanism based on this phenomenon. They compared the neural progenitor cells of human fetuses with those of mice.

The scientists were able to show that the so-called subventricular cells at the outer edge of the brain’s surface (OSVZ progenitor cells) maintain contact with the basement membrane on the outer surface of the developing brain via long, thin cell processes. Further, they have connections to the ventricle (brain cavity filled with fluid) via a second type of process. Being in contact with the basement membrane, these cells gain stem cell properties. They can divide repeatedly and produce a multitude of nerve cells. In the mouse, however, the  neural precursor cells no longer have contacts to the outer surface or to the ventricle. This is precisely what limits their proliferative activity, according to the researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.

Original publication:
Simone A. Fietz, Robert Lachmann, Holger Brandl, Martin Kircher, Nikolay Samusik, Roland Schroeder, Naharajan Lakshmanaperumal, Ian Henry, John Vogt, Axel Riehn, Wolfgang Distler, Robert Nitsch, Wolfgang Enard, Svante Pääbo, Wieland B. Huttner: Transcriptomes of germinal zones of human and mouse fetal neocortex suggest a role of extracellular matrix in progenitor self-renewal PNAS, 2nd July 2012 (Early Edition), doi: 10.1073/pnas.1209647109