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Keywords:

  • astrocyte;
  • cytokine;
  • microglia;
  • neurogenesis;
  • rat

Abstract

Neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) proliferate and differentiate depending on their intrinsic properties and local environment. It has been recognized that astrocytes promote neurogenic differentiation of NSPCs, suggesting the importance of cell–cell interactions between glial cells and NSPCs. Recent studies have demonstrated that microglia, one type of glial cells, play an important role in neurogenesis. However, little is known about how activated microglia control the proliferation and differentiation of NSPCs. In this study, we investigated the possibility that microglia-derived soluble factors regulate the behaviour of NSPCs. To this end, NSPCs and microglial cultures were obtained from rat embryonic day 16 subventricular zone (SVZ) and rat postnatal 1 day cortex, respectively, and the conditioned medium from microglia was prepared. Microglial-conditioned medium had no significant effect on the proliferation of NSPCs. In contrast, it increased the percentage of cells positive for a marker of astrocytes, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) during differentiation. The induction of astrocytic differentiation by microglial-conditioned medium was reduced by the inhibition of the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activation of transcription (JAK/STAT) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. Furthermore, microglia-derived interleukin (IL)-6 and leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) were identified as essential molecules for this astrocytic differentiation using neutralizing antibodies and recombinant cytokines. Our results suggest that microglia as well as astrocytes contribute to the integrity of the local environment of NSPCs, and at least IL-6 and LIF released by activated microglia promote astrocytic differentiation of NSPCs via the activation of the JAK/STAT and MAPK pathways.