• Extracellular matrix;
  • Proteoglycans;
  • Self-renewal;
  • Differentiation;
  • Neurogenesis


The neural stem cell niche of the embryonic and adult forebrain is rich in chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans (CS-GAGs) that represent complex linear carbohydrate structures on the cell surface of neural stem/progenitor cells or in their intimate environment. We reported earlier that the removal of CS-GAGs with the bacterial enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) reduced neural stem/progenitor cell proliferation and self-renewal, whereas this treatment favored astroglia formation at the expense of neurogenesis. Here, we studied the consequences of CS-deglycanation further and revealed that CS-GAGs are selectively required for neurosphere formation, proliferation, and self-renewal of embryonic cortical neural stem/progenitor cells in response to fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2. Consistently, the FGF-2-dependent activation of the MAPKinase in neural stem/progenitor cells was diminished after ChABC treatment, but unaltered after epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation. Upon EGF treatment, fewer radial glia were brain lipid-binding protein (BLBP)-positive, whereas more were glutamate aspartate transporter (GLAST)-positive after CS-GAG removal. Only in this latter situation, GLAST-positive radial glia cells extended processes that supported neuronal migration from differentiating neurospheres. CS-deglycanation also selectively increased astrocyte numbers and their migration in response to EGF. Thus, our approach revealed that CS-GAGs are essential for FGF-2-mediated proliferation and maintenance of neuron-generating neural stem/progenitor cells. Simultaneously, CS-GAGs act as a brake on the EGF-dependent maturation, migration, and gliogenesis of neural stem/progenitor cells. We conclude that neural stem/progenitor cell subpopulations reside in neurospheres that are distinguishable by their responsiveness to FGF-2 and EGF which is differentially regulated by CS-carbohydrate structures. STEM CELLS 2010;28:775–787