Direct-current electrical fields (EFs) promote nerve growth and axon regeneration. We report here that at physiological strengths, EFs guide the migration of neuronal stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) toward the cathode. EF-directed NSPC migration requires activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs), which leads to an increased physical association of Rho GTPase Rac1-associated signals to the membrane NMDARs and the intracellular actin cytoskeleton. Thus, this study identifies the EF as a directional guidance cue in controlling NSPC migration and reveals a role of the NMDAR/Rac1/actin signal transduction pathway in mediating EF-induced NSPC migration. These results suggest that as a safe physical approach in clinical application, EFs may be developed as a practical therapeutic strategy for brain repair by directing NSPC migration to the injured brain regions to replace cell loss.
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.