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Keywords:

  • neural stem cells;
  • epidermal growth factor;
  • fibroblast growth factor 2;
  • fourth ventricle;
  • spinal cord

Abstract

Stem cells isolated from the fourth ventricle and spinal cord form neurospheres in vitro in response to basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2)+heparin (H) or epidermal growth factor (EGF)+FGF2 together. To determine whether these growth factor conditions are sufficient to induce stem cells within the fourth ventricle and spinal cord to proliferate and expand their progeny in vivo, we infused EGF and FGF2, alone or together, with or without H, into the fourth ventricle for 6 days via osmotic minipumps. Animals were injected with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) on days 4, 5 and 6 of infusion in order to label cells proliferating in response to the growth factors. Infusions of EGF+FGF2+H into the fourth ventricle resulted in the largest proliferative effect, a 10.8-fold increase in the number of BrdU+ cells around the fourth ventricle, and a 33.5-fold increase in the number of BrdU+ cells around the central canal of the spinal cord, as compared to vehicle infused controls. The majority of the cells were nestin+ after 6 days of infusion. Seven weeks post-infusion, 22 and 30% of the number of BrdU+ cells induced to proliferate after 6 days of EGF+FGF2+H infusions were still detected around the fourth ventricle and central canal of the spinal cord, respectively. Analysis of the fates of the remaining cells showed that a small percentage of BrdU+ cells around the fourth ventricle and in the white matter of the spinal cord differentiated into astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. BrdU+ neurons were not found in the brainstem or in the grey matter of the cervical spinal cord 7 weeks post-infusion. These results show that endogenous stem cells and progenitors around the fourth ventricle and central canal of the spinal cord proliferate in response to exogenously applied growth factors, but unlike in the lateral ventricle where they generate some new neurons, they only produce new astrocytes and oligodendrocytes at 7 weeks post-infusion.