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Stem Cells. 2009 Feb;27(2):280-9. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2008-0842.

Gliotypic neural stem cells transiently adopt tumorigenic properties during normal differentiation.

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Department of Neuroscience, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.


An increasing body of evidence suggests that astrocytic gliomas of the central nervous system may be derived from gliotypic neural stem cells. To date, the study of these tumors, particularly the identification of originating cellular population(s), has been frustrated by technical difficulties in accessing the native niche of stem cells. To identify any hallmark signs of cancer in neural stem cells or their progeny, we cultured subventricular zone-derived tissue in a unique in vitro model that temporally and phenotypically recapitulates adult neurogenesis. Contrary to some reports, we found undifferentiated neural stem cells possess few characteristics, suggesting prototumorigenic potential. However, when induced to differentiate, neural stem cells give rise to intermediate progenitors that transiently exhibit multiple glioma characteristics, including aneuploidy, loss of growth-contact inhibition, alterations in cell cycle, and growth factor insensitivity. Further examination of progenitor populations revealed a subset of cells defined by the aberrant expression of (the pathological glioma marker) class III beta-tubulin that exhibit intrinsic parental properties of gliomas, including multilineage differentiation and continued proliferation in the absence of a complex cellular regulatory environment. As tumorigenic characteristics in progenitor cells normally disappear with the generation of mature progeny, this suggests that developmentally intermediate progenitor cells, rather than neural stem cells, may be the origin of so-called "stem cell-derived" tumors.

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