The adult mammalian brain contains self-renewable, multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) that are responsible for neurogenesis and plasticity in specific regions of the adult brain. Extracellular matrix, vasculature, glial cells, and other neurons are components of the niche where NSCs are located. This surrounding environment is the source of extrinsic signals that instruct NSCs to either self-renew or differentiate. Additionally, factors such as the intracellular epigenetics state and retrotransposition events can influence the decision of NSC's fate into neurons or glia. Extrinsic and intrinsic factors form an intricate signaling network, which is not completely understood. These factors altogether reflect a few of the key players characterized so far in the new field of NSC research and are covered in this review. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2011 3 107–114 DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.100

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