Radial glial cells, ubiquitous throughout the developing CNS, guide radially migrating neurons and are the precursors of astrocytes. Recent evidence indicates that radial glial cells also generate neurons in the developing cerebral cortex. Here we investigated the role of the transcription factor Pax6 expressed in cortical radial glia. We showed that radial glial cells isolated from the cortex of Pax6 mutant mice have a reduced neurogenic potential, whereas the neurogenic potential of non-radial glial precursors is not affected. Consistent with defects in only one neurogenic lineage, the number of neurons in the Pax6 mutant cortex in vivo is reduced by half. Conversely, retrovirally mediated Pax6 expression instructs neurogenesis even in astrocytes from postnatal cortex in vitro. These results demonstrated an important role of Pax6 as intrinsic fate determinant of the neurogenic potential of glial cells.
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