Neural stem cells engrafted in the adult brain fuse with endogenous neurons

Elisa Brilli, Erika Reitano, Luciano Conti, Paola Conforti, Rosario Gulino, G. Giacomo Consalez, Elisabetta Cesana, Austin Smith, Ferdinando Rossi, Elena Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural stem cells (NSCs) have become promising tools for basic research and regenerative medicine. Intracerebral transplantation studies have suggested that these cells may be able to adopt neuronal phenotypes typical of their engraftment site and to establish appropriate connections in the recipient circuitries. Here, we examined the in vivo neurogenic competence of well-characterized NSC lines subjected to in vitro priming and subsequent implantation into the adult intact mouse brain. Upon implantation into the hippocampus and, less frequently, in the striatum and in the cerebral cortex, numerous green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged cells acquired differentiated features indistinguishable from resident neurons. Upon closer examination, however, we found that this outcome resulted from fusion of donor cells with local neuronal elements generating long-term persistent GFP+ neuronal hybrids. This fusogenic behavior of NSCs was unexpected and also observed in coculture with E18 hippocampal immature neural cells, but not with microglia or astrocytes. Similar findings were consistently obtained with different NSC lines, mouse recipients, and donor cell-labeling methods. The frequent and cell type-specific fusion of donor NSCs with host neurons highlights a previously underestimated biological property of the nervous tissue that might prove profitable for basic and therapeutically oriented studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-547
Number of pages10
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Hematology

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