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Keywords:

  • astrocytes;
  • differentiation;
  • human;
  • neurogenesis;
  • stem cells

Abstract

Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive cells derived from the neurogenic areas of the brain can be stem/progenitor cells and give rise to new neurons in vitro and in vivo. We report here that a population of GFAP-positive cells derived from fetal human brain parenchyma coexpress markers of early neural and neuronal cells, and have neural progenitor cell characteristics. We used a monolayer culture system to expend and differentiate these cells. During the initial proliferative phase, all cells expressed GFAP, nestin and low levels of βIII-tubulin. When these cells were cultured in serum and then basic fibroblast growth factor, they generated two distinct progenies: (i) βIII-tubulin- and nestin-positive cells and (ii) GFAP- and nestin-positive cells. These cells, when subsequently cultured in serum-free media without growth factors, ceased to proliferate and differentiated into two major neural cell classes, neurons and glia. In the cells of neuronal lineage, nestin expression was down-regulated and βIII-tubulin expression became robust. Cells of glial lineage differentiated by down-regulating nestin expression and up-regulating GFAP expression. These data suggest that populations of parenchymal brain cells, initially expressing both glial and neuronal markers, are capable of differentiating into single neuronal and glial lineages through asymmetric regulation of gene expression in these cells, rather than acquiring markers through differentiation.