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Neuroscience. 1999 Jan;88(2):571-83.

Stress induces neurogenesis in non-neuronal cell cultures of adult olfactory epithelium.

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Neuroscience et Systèmes sensoriels, Université Claude Bernard-Lyon, Villeurbanne, France.


Among the basal cells of the olfactory epithelium is a stem cell which divides and whose progeny differentiate into new sensory neurons throughout adult life. Olfactory neurogenesis is highly regulated, for example it is stimulated by epithelial damage. Previous reports implicate several growth factors in progenitor cell proliferation and neuronal differentiation in vitro but these studies differ in growth conditions and age of donors making it difficult to determine precisely the roles of neurogenic stimuli and their sites of action. The aims of the present study were to develop purified basal cell cultures from adult olfactory epithelium and to stimulate neurogenesis in defined growth conditions in order to elucidate the cellular mechanisms by which neurogenesis is stimulated after epithelial damage. We show here that differentiated olfactory sensory neurons arise after biochemical or mechanical stress of rat and mouse olfactory epithelial cell cultures in the absence of growth factors, complex media (e.g., serum, conditioned media, pituitary and hypothalamic extracts), or other cells (e.g., explants, feeder layers of glia, or other non-epithelial cells). Prior to the stress, these cultures contained basal cells and supporting cells but not neurons. After the stress, some cells differentiated into bipolar neurons expressing a number of neuronal proteins including olfactory marker protein. Bromodeoxyuridine experiments show that the differentiated neurons arose from recently divided cells which did not divide again before differentiating. We conclude that stress disrupts cell surface contacts to induce the immediate neuronal precursors to undergo final differentiation into olfactory sensory neurons. This may be a mechanism for enhanced neurogenesis after epithelial damage.

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