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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 1, 1996; 93(20): 11167–11172.

Colony-forming progenitors from mouse olfactory epithelium: evidence for feedback regulation of neuron production.


The mammalian olfactory epithelium (OE) supports continual neurogenesis throughout life, suggesting that a neuronal stem cell exists in this system. In tissue culture, however, the capacity of the OE for neurogenesis ceases after a few days. In an attempt to identify conditions that support the survival of neuronal stem cells, a population of neuronal progenitors was isolated from embryonic mouse OE and cultured in defined serum-free medium. The vast majority of cells rapidly gave rise to neurons, which died shortly thereafter. However, when purified progenitors were co-cultured with cells derived from the stroma underlying the OE, a small subpopulation (0.07-0.1%) gave rise to proliferative colonies. A morphologically identifiable subset of these colonies generated new neurons as late as 7 days in vitro. Interestingly, development of these neuronal colonies was specifically inhibited when purified progenitors were plated onto stromal feeder cells in the presence of a large excess of differentiated OE neurons. These results indicate that a rare cell type, with the potential to undergo prolonged neurogenesis, can be isolated from mammalian OE and that stroma-derived factors are important in supporting neurogenesis by this cell. The data further suggest that differentiated neurons provide a signal that feeds back to inhibit production of new neurons by their own progenitors.

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