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Keywords:

  • Neural precursor cell;
  • Astrocyte differentiation;
  • DNA methylation;
  • Epigenetic gene regulation;
  • Notch signaling;
  • Oxygen concentration

Abstract

Oxygen levels in tissues including the embryonic brain are lower than those in the atmosphere. We reported previously that Notch signal activation induces demethylation of astrocytic genes, conferring astrocyte differentiation ability on midgestational neural precursor cells (mgNPCs). Here, we show that the oxygen sensor hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) plays a critical role in astrocytic gene demethylation in mgNPCs by cooperating with the Notch signaling pathway. Expression of constitutively active HIF1α and a hyperoxic environment, respectively, promoted and impeded astrocyte differentiation in the developing brain. Our findings suggest that hypoxia contributes to the appropriate scheduling of mgNPC fate determination. STEM CELLS 2012;30:561–569