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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2008;73:367-75. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2008.73.013. Epub 2008 Nov 6.

Notch, neural stem cells, and brain tumors.

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Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The Notch pathway has a fundamental role during cell-fate specification in the developing mammalian nervous system. During neocortical development, Notch signaling inhibits neuronal differentiation and maintains the neural stem/progenitor cell pool to permit successive waves of neurogenesis, which are followed by gliogenesis. In addition, recent evidence suggests that Notch signaling is not uniformly used among distinct proliferative neural cells types, with the canonical cascade functional in neural stem cells but attenuated in neurogenic progenitors. Although the role of Notch in neural development is increasingly well understood, it has recently become evident that Notch also has a role in brain tumor biology. Notch receptors are overexpressed in many different brain tumor types, and they may have an initiating role in some. Stem-like cells in brain tumors share many similarities with neural stem/progenitor cells and may require Notch for their survival and growth. Understanding the role of Notch signaling in neoplastic and non-neoplastic stem/progenitor populations will advance our understanding of basic principles regulating developmental and stem cell biology and may also lead to more effective therapies for brain tumors.

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