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Development. 2000 Jun;127(11):2367-82.

Sox2 regulatory sequences direct expression of a (beta)-geo transgene to telencephalic neural stem cells and precursors of the mouse embryo, revealing regionalization of gene expression in CNS stem cells.

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Dipartimento di Genetica e di Biologia dei Microrganismi, Università di Milano, via L.Celoria 26, Italy.


Sox2 is one of the earliest known transcription factors expressed in the developing neural tube. Although it is expressed throughout the early neuroepithelium, we show that its later expression must depend on the activity of more than one regionally restricted enhancer element. Thus, by using transgenic assays and by homologous recombination-mediated deletion, we identify a region upstream of Sox2 (-5.7 to -3.3 kb) which can not only drive expression of a (beta)-geo transgene to the developing dorsal telencephalon, but which is required to do so in the context of the endogenous gene. The critical enhancer can be further delimited to an 800 bp fragment of DNA surrounding a nuclease hypersensitive site within this region, as this is sufficient to confer telencephalic expression to a 3.3 kb fragment including the Sox2 promoter, which is otherwise inactive in the CNS. Expression of the 5.7 kb Sox2(beta)-geo transgene localizes to the neural plate and later to the telencephalic ventricular zone. We show, by in vitro clonogenic assays, that transgene-expressing (and thus G418-resistant) ventricular zone cells include cells displaying functional properties of stem cells, i.e. self-renewal and multipotentiality. We further show that the majority of telencephalic stem cells express the transgene, and this expression is largely maintained over two months in culture (more than 40 cell divisions) in the absence of G418 selective pressure. In contrast, stem cells grown in parallel from the spinal cord never express the transgene, and die in G418. Expression of endogenous telencephalic genes was similarly observed in long-term cultures derived from the dorsal telencephalon, but not in spinal cord-derived cultures. Thus, neural stem cells of the midgestation embryo are endowed with region-specific gene expression (at least with respect to some networks of transcription factors, such as that driving telencephalic expression of the Sox2 transgene), which can be inherited through multiple divisions outside the embryonic environment.

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