Isolation of a glial-restricted tripotential cell line from embryonic spinal cord cultures



Neuroepithelial stem cells (NEPs), glial-restricted precursors (GRPs), and neuron-restricted precursors (NRPs) are present during early differentiation of the spinal cord and can be identified by cell surface markers. In this article, we describe the properties of GRP cells that have been immortalized using a regulatable v-myc retrovirus construct. Immortalized GRP cells can be maintained in an undifferentiated dividing state for long periods and can be induced to differentiate into two types of astrocytes and into oligodendrocytes in culture. A clonal cell line prepared from immortalized GRP cells, termed GRIP-1, was also shown to retain the properties of a glial-restricted tripotential precursor. Transplantation of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled subclones of the immortalized cells into the adult CNS demonstrates that this cell line can also participate in the in vivo development of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Late passages of the immortalized cells undergo limited transdifferentiation into neurons as assessed by expression of multiple neuronal markers. The availability of a conditionally immortalized cell line obviates the difficulties of obtaining a large and homogeneous population of GRPs that can be used for studying the mechanism and signals for glial cell differentiation as well as their application in transplantation protocols. GLIA 38:65–79, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.