Adult Nestin-expressing Subependymal Cells Differentiate to Astrocytes in Response to Brain Injury



The adult brain contains a small population of central nervous system (CNS) cells in the subependyma which, like embryonic CNS progenitor cells, express the intermediate filament nestin. In this report, the differentiation capacity in vivo of these cells was analysed following a standardized trauma. Before the trauma, the subependymal cells expressed nestin but not the astrocytic and neuronal differentiation markers glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and neurofilament respectively. In response to injury, the majority of the subependymal cells coexpressed nestin and GFAP, but never nestin and neurofilament. Furthermore, cells coexpressing nestin and GFAP were found progressively further away from the subependyma and closer to the lesion at later time points after the injury, indicating that these cells migrate towards the lesion. Nestin was in addition re-expressed in reactive astrocytes near the lesion and in non-reactive astrocytes very far from the lesion throughout the ipsilateral cortex. In conclusion, our data indicate that the nestin-positive subependymal cells are an in vivo source for the generation of new astrocytes but not neurons after injury, and that nestin re-expression in astrocytes following traumatic stimuli can be used as a sensitive marker for astroglial activation.