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J Neurosci Res. 2012 Oct;90(10):1883-91. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23077. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Dnmt3a regulates both proliferation and differentiation of mouse neural stem cells.

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Department of Spinal Surgery, Translational Stem Cell Center, Tongji Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


DNA methylation is known to regulate cell differentiation and neuronal function in vivo. Here we examined whether deficiency of a de novo DNA methyltransferase, Dnmt3a, affects in vitro differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to neuronal and glial cell lineages. Early-passage neural stem cells (NSCs) derived from Dnmt3a-deficient ESCs exhibited a moderate phenotype in precocious glial differentiation compared with wild-type counterparts. However, successive passaging to passage 6 (P6), when wild-type NSCs become gliogenic, revealed a robust phenotype of precocious astrocyte and oligodendrocyte differentiation in Dnmt3a(-/-) NSCs, consistent with our previous findings in the more severely hypomethylated Dnmt1(-/-) NSCs. Mass spectrometric analysis revealed that total levels of methylcytosine in Dnmt3a(-/-) NSCs at P6 were globally hypomethylated. Moreover, the Dnmt3a(-/-) NSC proliferation rate was significantly increased compared with control from P6 onward. Thus, our work revealed a novel role for Dnmt3a in regulating both the timing of neural cell differentiation and the cell proliferation in the paradigm of mESC-derived-NSCs.

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