During brain development, morphological changes modify the cortex from its immature radial organization to its mature laminar appearance. Applying in vivo diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), the microstructural organization of the cortex in the immature rat was analyzed and correlated to neurohistopathology. Significant differences in apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and fractional anisotropy (FA) were detected between the external (I-III) and deep (IV-VI) cortical layers in postnatal day 3 (P3) and P6 pups. With cortical maturation, ADC was reduced in both cortical regions, whereas a decrease in FA was only seen in the deep layers. A distinct radial organization of the external cortical layers with the eigenvectors perpendicular to the pial surface was observed at both ages. Histology revealed maturational differences in the cortical architecture with increased neurodendritic density and reduction in the radial glia scaffolding. Early DTI after hypoxia-ischemia at P3 shows reduced ADC and FA in the ipsilateral cortex that persisted at P6. Cortical DTI eigenvector maps reveal microstructural disruption of the radial organization corresponding to regions of neuronal death, radial glial disruption, and astrocytosis. Thus, the combined use of in vivo DTI and histopathology can assist in delineating normal developmental changes and postinjury modifications in the immature rodent brain.
In contrast to the adult brain, the adult spinal cord is a non-neurogenic environment. Understanding how to manipulate the spinal cord environment to promote the formation of new neurons is an attractive therapeutic strategy for spinal cord injury and disease. The cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1R) has been implicated as a modulator of neural progenitor cell proliferation and fate specification in the brain; however, no evidence exists for modulation of adult spinal cord progenitor cells. Using adult rat spinal cord primary cultures, we demonstrated that CB1R antagonism with AM251 significantly decreased the number of Nestin(+) cells, and increased the number of βIII tubulin(+) and DCX(+) cells, indicative of neuronal differentiation. AM251's effect was blocked by co-application of the CB1R agonists, WIN 55, 212-2, or ACEA. Consistent with our hypothesis, cultures, and spinal cord slices derived from CB1R knock-out (CB1-/-) mice had significantly higher levels of DCX(+) cells compared to those derived from wild type (CB1+/+) mice, indicative of enhanced neuronal differentiation in CB1-/- spinal cords. Moreover, AM251 promoted neuronal differentiation in CB1+/+, but not in CB1-/- cultures. Since CB1R modulates synaptic transmission, and synaptic transmission has been shown to influence progenitor cell fate, we evaluated whether AM251-induced neuronal differentiation was affected by chronic inactivity. Either the presence of the voltage-dependent sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX), or the removal of mature neurons, inhibited the AM251-induced increase in DCX(+) cells. In summary, antagonism or absence of CB1R promotes neuronal differentiation in adult spinal cords, and this action appears to require TTX-sensitive neuronal activity. Our data suggest that the previously detected elevated levels of endocannabinoids in the injured adult spinal cord could contribute to the non-neurogenic environment and CB1R antagonists could potentially be used to enhance replacement of damaged neurons.
Stromal-cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) and its receptor CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) play a well-established role during embryonic development of dentate gyrus granule cells. However, little is known about the regulation and function of CXCR4 in the postnatal dentate gyrus. Here, we identify a striking mismatch between intense CXCR4 mRNA and limited CXCR4 protein expression in adult rat subgranular layer (SGL) neurons. We demonstrate that CXCR4 protein expression in SGL neurons is progressively lost during postnatal day 15 (P15) to P21. This loss of CXCR4 protein expression was paralleled by a reduction in the number of SDF-1-responsive SGL neurons and a massive upregulation of SDF-1 mRNA in granule cells. Intraventricular infusion of the CXCR4-antagonist AMD3100 dramatically increased CXCR4 protein expression in SGL neurons, suggesting that CXCR4 is tonically activated and downregulated by endogenous SDF-1. Infusion of AMD3100 also facilitated detection of CXCR4 protein in bromodeoxyuridine-, nestin-, and doublecortin-labeled cells and showed that the vast majority of adult-born granule cells transiently expressed CXCR4. Chronic AMD3100 administration impaired formation of new granule cells as well as neurogenesis-dependent long-term recognition of novel objects. Therefore, our findings suggest that tonic activation of CXCR4 in newly formed granule cells by endogenous SDF-1 is essential for neurogenesis-dependent long-term memory in the adult hippocampus.
Targeting of oncogenic Kras to the pancreatic Nestin-expressing embryonic progenitor cells and subsequently to the adult acinar compartment and Nestin-expressing cells is sufficient for the development of low grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) between 2 and 4 months. The mice die around 6 month-old of unrelated causes, and it is therefore not possible to assess whether the lesions will progress to carcinoma. We now report that two brief episodes of caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis in 2 month-old mice causes rapid PanIN progression and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) development by 4 months of age. These events occur with similar frequency as observed in animals where the oncogene is targeted during embryogenesis to all pancreatic cell types. Thus, these data show that oncogenic Kras-driven PanIN originating in a non-ductal compartment can rapidly progress to PDAC when subjected to a brief inflammatory insult.
Btg1 belongs to a family of cell cycle inhibitory genes. We observed that Btg1 is highly expressed in adult neurogenic niches, i.e., the dentate gyrus and subventricular zone (SVZ). Thus, we generated Btg1 knockout mice to analyze the role of Btg1 in the process of generation of adult new neurons. Ablation of Btg1 causes a transient increase of the proliferating dentate gyrus stem and progenitor cells at post-natal day 7; however, at 2 months of age the number of these proliferating cells, as well as of mature neurons, greatly decreases compared to wild-type controls. Remarkably, adult dentate gyrus stem and progenitor cells of Btg1-null mice exit the cell cycle after completing the S phase, express p53 and p21 at high levels and undergo apoptosis within 5 days. In the SVZ of adult (two-month-old) Btg1-null mice we observed an equivalent decrease, associated to apoptosis, of stem cells, neuroblasts, and neurons; furthermore, neurospheres derived from SVZ stem cells showed an age-dependent decrease of the self-renewal and expansion capacity. We conclude that ablation of Btg1 reduces the pool of dividing adult stem and progenitor cells in the dentate gyrus and SVZ by decreasing their proliferative capacity and inducing apoptosis, probably reflecting impairment of the control of the cell cycle transition from G1 to S phase. As a result, the ability of Btg1-null mice to discriminate among overlapping contextual memories was affected. Btg1 appears, therefore, to be required for maintaining adult stem and progenitor cells quiescence and self-renewal.
New mechanisms that regulate neural stem cell (NSC) expansion will contribute to improved assay systems and the emerging regenerative approach that targets endogenous stem cells. Expanding knowledge on the control of stem cell self renewal will also lead to new approaches for targeting the stem cell population of cancers.Here we show that Cholera toxin regulates two recently characterized NSC markers, the Tie2 receptor and the transcription factor Hes3, and promotes the expansion of NSCs in culture. Cholera toxin increases immunoreactivity for the Tie2 receptor and rapidly induces the nuclear localization of Hes3. This is followed by powerful cultured NSC expansion and induction of proliferation both in the presence and absence of mitogen.Our data suggest a new cell biological mechanism that regulates the self renewal and differentiation properties of stem cells, providing a new logic to manipulate NSCs in the context of regenerative disease and cancer.
As neuronal differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) recapitulates embryonic neurogenesis, disturbances of this process may model developmental neurotoxicity (DNT). To identify the relevant steps of in vitro neurodevelopment, we implemented a differentiation protocol yielding neurons with desired electrophysiological properties. Results from focussed transcriptional profiling suggested that detection of non-cytotoxic developmental disturbances triggered by toxicants such as retinoic acid (RA) or cyclopamine was possible. Therefore, a broad transcriptional profile of the 20-day differentiation process was obtained. Cluster analysis of expression kinetics, and bioinformatic identification of overrepresented gene ontologies revealed waves of regulation relevant for DNT testing. We further explored the concept of superimposed waves as descriptor of ordered, but overlapping biological processes. The initial wave of transcripts indicated reorganization of chromatin and epigenetic changes. Then, a transient upregulation of genes involved in the formation and patterning of neuronal precursors followed. Simultaneously, a long wave of ongoing neuronal differentiation started. This was again superseded towards the end of the process by shorter waves of neuronal maturation that yielded information on specification, extracellular matrix formation, disease-associated genes and the generation of glia. Short exposure to lead during the final differentiation phase, disturbed neuronal maturation. Thus, the wave kinetics and the patterns of neuronal specification define the time windows and end points for examination of DNT.
Cancer stem cells are remarkably similar to normal stem cells: both self-renew, are multipotent and express common surface markers, for example, prominin 1 (PROM1, also called CD133). What remains unclear is whether cancer stem cells are the direct progeny of mutated stem cells or more mature cells that reacquire stem cell properties during tumour formation. Answering this question will require knowledge of whether normal stem cells are susceptible to cancer-causing mutations; however, this has proved difficult to test because the identity of most adult tissue stem cells is not known. Here, using an inducible Cre, nuclear LacZ reporter allele knocked into the Prom1 locus (Prom1(C-L)), we show that Prom1 is expressed in a variety of developing and adult tissues. Lineage-tracing studies of adult Prom1(+/C-L) mice containing the Rosa26-YFP reporter allele showed that Prom1(+) cells are located at the base of crypts in the small intestine, co-express Lgr5 (ref. 2), generate the entire intestinal epithelium, and are therefore the small intestinal stem cell. Prom1 was reported recently to mark cancer stem cells of human intestinal tumours that arise frequently as a consequence of aberrant wingless (Wnt) signalling. Activation of endogenous Wnt signalling in Prom1(+/C-L) mice containing a Cre-dependent mutant allele of beta-catenin (Ctnnb1(lox(ex3))) resulted in a gross disruption of crypt architecture and a disproportionate expansion of Prom1(+) cells at the crypt base. Lineage tracing demonstrated that the progeny of these cells replaced the mucosa of the entire small intestine with neoplastic tissue that was characterized by focal high-grade intraepithelial neoplasia and crypt adenoma formation. Although all neoplastic cells arose from Prom1(+) cells in these mice, only 7% of tumour cells retained Prom1 expression. Our data indicate that Prom1 marks stem cells in the adult small intestine that are susceptible to transformation into tumours retaining a fraction of mutant Prom1(+) tumour cells.
Heterotopic or aberrantly positioned cortical neurons are associated with epilepsy and intellectual disability. Various mouse models exist with forms of heterotopia, but the composition and state of cells developing in heterotopic bands has been little studied. Dcx knockout (KO) mice show hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cell lamination abnormalities, appearing from the age of E17.5, and mice suffer from spontaneous epilepsy. The Dcx KO CA3 region is organized in two distinct pyramidal cell layers, resembling a heterotopic situation, and exhibits hyperexcitability. Here, we characterized the abnormally organized cells in postnatal mouse brains. Electron microscopy confirmed that the Dcx KO CA3 layers at postnatal day (P) 0 are distinct and separated by an intermediate layer devoid of neuronal somata. We found that organization and cytoplasm content of pyramidal neurons in each layer were altered compared to wild type (WT) cells. Less regular nuclei and differences in mitochondria and Golgi apparatuses were identified. Each Dcx KO CA3 layer at P0 contained pyramidal neurons but also other closely apposed cells, displaying different morphologies. Quantitative PCR and immunodetections revealed increased numbers of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) and interneurons in close proximity to Dcx KO pyramidal cells. Immunohistochemistry experiments also showed that caspase-3 dependent cell death was increased in the CA1 and CA3 regions of Dcx KO hippocampi at P2. Thus, unsuspected ultrastructural abnormalities and cellular heterogeneity may lead to abnormal neuronal function and survival in this model, which together may contribute to the development of hyperexcitability.