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Keywords:

  • cell differentiation;
  • epigenetics;
  • neural stem cells

The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of three major cell types – neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes – which differentiate from common multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs). This differentiation process is regulated spatiotemporally during the course of mammalian development. It is becoming apparent that epigenetic regulation is an important cell-intrinsic program, which can interact with transcription factors and environmental cues to modulate the differentiation of NSCs. This knowledge is important given the potential of NSCs to produce specific CNS cell types that will be beneficial for clinical applications. Here we review recent findings that address molecular mechanisms of epigenetic and transcription factor-mediated regulation that specify NSC fate during CNS development, with a particular focus on the developing mammalian forebrain.