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Keywords:

  • TGF-β1;
  • Smad2;
  • stem cells;
  • cell cycle;
  • doublecortin;
  • differentiation

Abstract

Members of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-β family govern a wide range of mechanisms in brain development and in the adult, in particular neuronal/glial differentiation and survival, but also cell cycle regulation and neural stem cell maintenance. This clearly created some discrepancies in the field with some studies favouring neuronal differentiation/survival of progenitors and others favouring cell cycle exit and neural stem cell quiescence/maintenance. Here, we provide a unifying hypothesis claiming that through its regulation of neural progenitor cell (NPC) proliferation, TGF-β signalling might be responsible for (i) maintaining stem cells in a quiescent stage, and (ii) promoting survival of newly generated neurons and their functional differentiation. Therefore, we performed a detailed histological analysis of TGF-β1 signalling in the hippocampal neural stem cell niche of a transgenic mouse that was previously generated to express TGF-β1 under a tetracycline regulatable Ca-Calmodulin kinase promoter. We also analysed NPC proliferation, quiescence, neuronal survival and differentiation in relation to elevated levels of TGF-β1 in vitro and in vivo conditions. Finally, we performed a gene expression profiling to identify the targets of TGF-β1 signalling in adult NPCs. The results demonstrate that TGF-β1 promotes stem cell quiescence on one side, but also neuronal survival on the other side. Thus, considering the elevated levels of TGF-β1 in ageing and neurodegenerative diseases, TGF-β1 signalling presents a molecular target for future interventions in such conditions.