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Cereb Cortex. 1997 Jun;7(4):293-302.

Basic fibroblast growth factor prolongs the proliferation of rat cortical progenitor cells in vitro without altering their cell cycle parameters.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, UK.


Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) has been shown to influence the survival, proliferation and differentiation of a variety of cell types in the nervous system. In this investigation we have examined the action of bFGF on: (i) the rate of proliferation; (ii) cell cycle parameters; (iii) the maintenance of cell division; (iv) the recruitment of quiescent cells; and (v) the degree of differentiation of cortical progenitor cells in cultures prepared from E16 rat embryos. The proliferation rate (labelling index) of cortical progenitor cells doubled in the presence of bFGF over 48 h. However, the lengths of the cell cycle phases were unchanged. Clones marked with a recombinant retrovirus on the first day in vitro (DIV) grew significantly larger in the presence of bFGF. Furthermore, many of the clones examined in control cultures had ceased to divide after a maximum of four cell cycles, whereas almost all clonally related cells were still dividing in the presence of bFGF 4 days later, i.e. for at least six cell cycles. Basic FGF also stimulated the division of quiescent progenitor cells, which otherwise would have differentiated or undergone cell death. The degree of neuronal and glial differentiation was studied after 5 DIV using MAP-2 and GFAP immunocytochemistry. In the presence of bFGF, the percentage of MAP-2-labelled cells was less than half that of control cultures, whereas the number of cells immunoreactive for nestin (a marker of progenitor cells) remained very high. Cells immunoreactive for GFAP were present in bFGF-treated cultures, yet were extremely rare in control conditions. These experiments show that bFGF, a potent mitogen for cortical progenitor cells, has no effects on the parameters of their cell cycle but extends their proliferative capability, promotes their survival and delays their differentiation into neurons.

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