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Neuron. 2005 Oct 20;48(2):253-65.

Evidence that embryonic neurons regulate the onset of cortical gliogenesis via cardiotrophin-1.

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Developmental Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto M5G 1X8, Canada.


Precursor cells of the embryonic cortex sequentially generate neurons and then glial cells, but the mechanisms regulating this neurogenic-to-gliogenic transition are unclear. Using cortical precursor cultures, which temporally mimic this in vivo differentiation pattern, we demonstrate that cortical neurons synthesize and secrete the neurotrophic cytokine cardiotrophin-1, which activates the gp130-JAK-STAT pathway and is essential for the timed genesis of astrocytes in vitro. Our data indicate that a similar phenomenon also occurs in vivo. In utero electroporation of neurotrophic cytokines in the environment of embryonic cortical precursors causes premature gliogenesis, while acute perturbation of gp130 in cortical precursors delays the normal timed appearance of astrocytes. Moreover, the neonatal cardiotrophin-1-/- cortex contains fewer astrocytes. Together, these results describe a neural feedback mechanism; newly born neurons produce cardiotrophin-1, which instructs multipotent cortical precursors to generate astrocytes, thereby ensuring that gliogenesis does not occur until neurogenesis is largely complete.

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