Essentially, three neuroectodermal-derived cell types make up the complex architecture of the adult CNS: neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These elements are endowed with remarkable morphological, molecular and functional heterogeneity that reaches its maximal expression during development when stem/progenitor cells undergo progressive changes that drive them to a fully differentiated state. During this period the transient expression of molecular markers hampers precise identification of cell categories, even in neuronal and glial domains. These issues of developmental biology are recapitulated partially during the neurogenic processes that persist in discrete regions of the adult brain. The recent hypothesis that adult neural stem cells (NSCs) show a glial identity and derive directly from radial glia raises questions concerning the neuronal-glial relationships during pre- and post-natal brain development. The fact that NSCs isolated in vitro differentiate mainly into astrocytes, whereas in vivo they produce mainly neurons highlights the importance of epigenetic signals in the neurogenic niches, where glial cells and neurons exert mutual influences. Unravelling the mechanisms that underlie NSC plasticity in vivo and in vitro is crucial to understanding adult neurogenesis and exploiting this physiological process for brain repair. In this review we address the issues of neuronal/glial cell identity and neuronal-glial interactions in the context of NSC biology and NSC-driven neurogenesis during development and adulthood in vivo, focusing mainly on the CNS. We also discuss the peculiarities of neuronal-glial relationships for NSCs and their progeny in the context of in vitro systems.
- Stem cell niche
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience