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Dev Biol. 2007 Feb 1;302(1):356-66. Epub 2006 Sep 16.

Purinergic signaling regulates neural progenitor cell expansion and neurogenesis.

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Department of Cell Biology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA.


Neural stem and progenitor cells typically exhibit a density-dependent survival and expansion, such that critical densities are required below which clonogenic progenitors are lost. This suggests that short-range autocrine factors may be critical for progenitor cell maintenance. We report here that purines drive the expansion of ventricular zone neural stem and progenitor cells, and that purine receptor activation is required for progenitor cells to be maintained as such. Neural progenitors expressed P2Y purinergic receptors and mobilized intracellular calcium in response to agonist. Receptor antagonists suppressed proliferation and permitted differentiation into neurons and glia in vitro, while subsequent removal of purinergic inhibition restored progenitor cell expansion. Real-time bioluminescence imaging of extracellular ATP revealed that the source of extracellular nucleotides are the progenitor cells themselves, which appear to release ATP in episodic burst events. Enzyme histochemistry of the adult rat brain for ectonucleotidase activity revealed that NTDPase, which acts to degrade active ATP and thereby clears it from areas of active purinergic transmission, was selectively localized to the subventricular zone and the dentate gyrus, regions in which neuronal differentiation proceeds from the progenitor cell pool. These data suggest that purine nucleotides act as proliferation signals for neural progenitor cells, and thereby serve as negative regulators of terminal neuronal differentiation. As a result, progenitor cell-derived neurogenesis is thus associated with regions of both active purinergic signaling and modulation thereof.

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