Neural Stem Cells and Nutrients: Poised Between Quiescence and Exhaustion

Virve Cavallucci, Marco Fidaleo, Giovambattista Pani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adult neurogenesis initiated by neural stem cells (NSCs) contributes to brain homeostasis, damage repair, and cognition. Energy metabolism plays a pivotal role in neurogenic cell fate decisions regarding self-renewal, expansion and multilineage differentiation. NSCs need to fine-tune quiescence and proliferation/commitment to guarantee lifelong neurogenesis and avoid premature exhaustion. Accumulating evidence supports a model whereby calorie restriction or increased energy expenditure reinforce NSC quiescence and promote self-renewal. Conversely, growth/proliferation inputs and anabolic signals, although necessary for neurogenesis, deplete the NSCs pool in the long run. This framework incorporates the emerging neurogenic roles of nutrient-sensing signaling pathways, providing a rationale for the alarming connection between nutritional imbalances, metabolic disorders and accelerated brain aging. Quiescent stem cells, including quiescent neural stem cells (qNSC), recapitulate many aspects of hypometabolic, reversibly growth-arrested, and long-lived states of simple organisms.Nutrient signals and energy metabolism control adult neurogenesis at different levels, and in particular regulate NSC transition between quiescent and activated states.Converging evidence from genetic and nutritional studies indicate that deregulated nutrient signaling leads to abnormal and wasteful NSC activation followed by premature exhaustion.NSC exhaustion is a major component of brain aging and related disease, and may explain the connection between metabolic disorders and cognitive impairment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Endocrinology and Metabolism
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult neurogenesis
  • Brain aging
  • Metabolism
  • Neural stem cells (NSC)
  • Self-renewal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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