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Glia. 2009 Apr 15;57(6):592-603. doi: 10.1002/glia.20788.

An FGF-responsive astrocyte precursor isolated from the neonatal forebrain.

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Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.


Gliogenesis in the mammalian CNS continues after birth, with astrocytes being generated well into the first two postnatal weeks. In this study, we have isolated an A2B5(+) astrocyte precursor (APC) from the postnatal rat forebrain, which is capable of differentiating into mature astrocytes in serum-free medium without further trophic support. Exposure to basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) selectively induces the APCs to proliferate, forming clusters of vimentin(+) cells, which, within 2 weeks, differentiate into GFAP(+) astrocytes. While bFGF functions as a potent mitogen, neither is it necessary to induce or maintain astrocyte differentiation, nor is it capable of maintaining the precursors in an immature, proliferative state. APCs exit the cell cycle and differentiate, even in the continued presence of fibroblast growth factor alone or in combination with other mitogenic factors such as platelet-derived growth factor. Under the culture conditions used, it was not possible to cause the astrocytes to re-enter cell cycle. After transplantation into the neonatal forebrain, APCs differentiated exclusively into astrocytes, regardless of brain region. Initially distributed widely within the forebrain, the precursors are most greatly concentrated within the subventricular zone (SVZ) and subcortical white matter, where they are maintained throughout postnatal development. APCs can be isolated from the SVZ and white matter of animals as late as 4 weeks after birth.

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