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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Oct 14;94(21):11369-74.

Integration of multiple instructive cues by neural crest stem cells reveals cell-intrinsic biases in relative growth factor responsiveness.

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  • 1Division of Biology 216-76, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Growth factors can influence lineage determination of neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) in an instructive manner, in vitro. Because NCSCs are likely exposed to multiple signals in vivo, these findings raise the question of how stem cells would integrate such combined influences. Bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) promotes neuronal differentiation and glial growth factor 2 (GGF2) promotes glial differentiation; if NCSCs are exposed to saturating concentrations of both factors, BMP2 appears dominant. By contrast, if the cells are exposed to saturating concentrations of both BMP2 and transforming growth factor beta1 (which promotes smooth muscle differentiation), the two factors appear codominant. Sequential addition experiments indicate that NCSCs require 48-96 hrs in GGF2 before they commit to a glial fate, whereas the cells commit to a smooth muscle fate within 24 hr in transforming growth factor beta1. The delayed response to GGF2 does not reflect a lack of functional receptors; however, because the growth factor induces rapid mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation in naive cells. Furthermore, GGF2 can attenuate induction of the neurogenic transcription factor mammalian achaete-scute homolog 1, by low doses of BMP2. This short-term antineurogenic influence of GGF2 is not sufficient for glial lineage commitment, however. These data imply that NCSCs exhibit cell-intrinsic biases in the timing and relative dosage sensitivity of their responses to instructive factors that influence the outcome of lineage decisions in the presence of multiple factors. The relative delay in glial lineage commitment, moreover, apparently reflects successive short-term and longer-term actions of GGF2. Such a delay may help to explain why glia normally differentiate after neurons, in vivo.

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