Extracerebellar progenitors grafted to the neurogenic milieu of the postnatal rat cerebellum adapt to the host environment but fail to acquire cerebellar identities


Dr F. Rossi, as above.
E-mail: ferdinando.rossi@unito.it


Stem or progenitor cells acquire specific regional identities during early ontogenesis. Nonetheless, there is evidence that cells heterotopically transplanted to neurogenic regions of the developing or mature central nervous system may switch their fate to adopt host-specific phenotypes. Here, we isolated progenitor cells from different germinative sites along the neuraxis where GABAergic interneurons are produced (telencephalic subventricular zone, medial ganglionic eminence, ventral mesencephalon and dorsal spinal cord), and grafted them to the prospective white matter of the postnatal rat cerebellum, at the time when local interneurons are generated. The phenotype acquired by transplanted cells was assessed by different criteria, including expression of region-specific transcription factors, acquisition of morphological and neurochemical traits, and integration in the cerebellar cytoarchitecture. Regardless of their origin, all the different types of donor cells engrafted in the cerebellar parenchyma and developed mature neurons that shared some morphological and neurochemical features with local inhibitory interneurons, particularly in the deep nuclei. Nevertheless, transplanted cells failed to activate cerebellar-specific regulatory genes. In addition, their major structural features, the expression profiles of type-specific markers and the laminar placement in the recipient cortex did not match those of endogenous interneurons generated during the same developmental period. Therefore, although exogenous cells are influenced by the cerebellar milieu and show remarkable capabilities for adapting to the foreign environment, they essentially fail to switch their fate, integrate in the host neurogenic mechanisms and adopt clear-cut cerebellar identities.