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Keywords:

  • noradrenergic neurons;
  • satellite cells;
  • superior cervical ganglia;
  • postnatal sympathetic development

Abstract

Sympathetic ganglia are primarily composed of noradrenergic neurons and satellite glial cells. Although both cell types originate from neural crest cells, the identities of the progenitor populations at intermediate stages of the differentiation process remain to be established. Here we report on the identification in vivo of glial and neuronal progenitor cells in postnatal sympathetic ganglia, by using mouse superior cervical ganglia as a model system. There are significant levels of cellular proliferation in mouse superior cervical ganglia during the first 18 days after birth. A majority of the proliferating cells express both nestin and brain lipid-binding protein (BLBP). Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) fate-tracing experiments demonstrate that these nestin and BLBP double-positive cells represent a population of glial progenitors for sympathetic satellite cells. The glial differentiation process is characterized by a marked downregulation of nestin and upregulation of S100, with no significant changes in the levels of BLBP expression. We also identify a small number of proliferating cells that express nestin and tyrosine hydroxylase, a key enzyme of catecholamine biosynthesis that defines sympathetic noradrenergic neurons. Together, these results establish nestin as a common marker for sympathetic neuronal and glial progenitor cells and delineate the cellular basis for the generation and maturation of sympathetic satellite cells. J. Comp. Neurol. 508:867–878, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.