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Oncogene. 2007 Apr 26;26(19):2695-706. Epub 2006 Oct 23.

Transforming growth factor alpha promotes sequential conversion of mature astrocytes into neural progenitors and stem cells.

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Inserm U114 and U752, Paris, France.


An instability of the mature cell phenotype is thought to participate to the formation of gliomas, primary brain tumors deriving from astrocytes and/or neural stem cells. Transforming growth factor alpha (TGFalpha) is an erbB1 ligand overexpressed in the earliest stages of gliomas, and exerts trophic effects on gliomal cells and astrocytes. Here, we questioned whether prolonged TGFalpha exposure affects the stability of the normal mature astrocyte phenotype. We first developed astrocyte cultures devoid of residual neural stem cells or progenitors. We demonstrate that days of TGFalpha treatment result in the functional conversion of a population of mature astrocytes into radial glial cells, a population of neural progenitors. TGFalpha-generated radial glial cells support embryonic neurons migration, and give birth to cells of the neuronal lineage, expressing neuronal markers and the electrophysiological properties of neuroblasts. Lengthening TGFalpha treatment to months results in the delayed appearance of cells with neural stem cells properties: they form floating cellular spheres that are self-renewing, can be clonally derived from a single cell and differentiated into cells of the neuronal lineage. This study uncovers a novel population of mature astrocytes capable, in response to a single epigenetic factor, to regress progressively into a neural stem-like cell stage via an intermediate progenitor stage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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