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J Neurosci. 1999 Oct 15;19(20):9004-15.

Astroglial differentiation of cortical precursor cells triggered by activation of the cAMP-dependent signaling pathway.

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Reproductive Endocrine Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


In the developing brain, differentiation of neural precursors into neurons or glial cells occurs in response to neurotrophic factors acting on the cell surface. Intracellular signaling mechanisms that relay information to initiate differentiative responses of neural precursor cells are poorly understood. To investigate whether stimulation of the cAMP-dependent signaling pathway participates in differentiative responses of cells in the developing CNS, we performed experiments using both conditionally immortalized neural precursor cells (RC2.E10 cells) and primary cultures of cells from developing rat cortex. Initially, we determined that RC2.E10 cells retain phenotypic features of neural precursors after inactivation of the immortalizing oncogene, a temperature-sensitive mutant of the simian virus 40 large-T antigen (SV40T). We found that, once SV40T is inactivated, RC2.E10 cells cease to divide and die. However, RC2. E10 cells can proliferate in the presence of basic fibroblast growth factor. In addition, they express nestin, a marker of neural precursor cells. Both RC2.E10 cells and primary cortical precursor cells undergo astroglial differentiation in response to cAMP stimulation by treatment with 8-bromo-cAMP. In both cases, cAMP-induced astrocyte differentiation is characterized by morphological changes, stimulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein expression, downregulation of nestin expression, and decreased proliferation. No increases in the expression of neuronal or oligodendrocytic markers were observed. Our results support the notion that the developing CNS contains neural precursor cells with the capacity of undergoing astrocyte differentiation in response to increased intracellular cAMP concentrations.

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