Neural stem cells control their own fate

August 18, 2016, University of Basel
These are neural stem cells in the adult mouse hippocampus. Green: the stem cells and their progeny express protein. Magenta: the hippocampal stem cells generate newborn neurons. Blue: mature granule neurons. Credit: Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel

To date, it has been assumed that the differentiation of stem cells depends on the environment they are embedded in. A research group at the University of Basel now describes for the first time a mechanism by which hippocampal neural stem cells regulate their own cell fate via the protein Drosha. The journal Cell Stem Cell has published their results.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to differentiate into many cell types. However, the cell types that somatic produce are usually restricted to those of the organ in which they sit. The current view proposes that is controlled by their local environment, the so-called niche. Thus, stem cells receive and interpret specific factors present in their niche that guide their differentiation into specific and restricted cell types.

In the adult brain, the hippocampus is responsible for specific forms of memory - a brain region that is also affected in diseases such as dementia, depression and epilepsy. The functions of the hippocampus are based on different cell types, some of which are generated throughout life by . Neural stem cells are generally accepted to produce three different : neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. However, the adult hippocampus does not produce oligodendrocytes - the reason for this was so far not known.

Intrinsic cell mechanism

Researchers from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel have now found that the fate of adult hippocampal stem cells is not only controlled by their local niche, but also by a cell-intrinsic mechanism. Their study describes the central role of the enzyme Drosha in this mechanism. Drosha degrades the messenger RNA for NFIB in the adult hippocampal stem cells and prevents the expression of this transcription factor which is necessary for the differentiation of oligodendrocytes and thus blocks their development and therefore biases differentiation towards neurons.

The team lead by Prof. Verdon Taylor was able to demonstrate for the first time a cell-intrinsic mechanism regulating stem cell fate. «Our research results about the function of Drosha challenge the way we used to think about how stem cell fate is controlled", says cell biologist Taylor. His research group now wants to study if and how stem cells are able to modulate the activity of Drosha in order to satisfy demand.

Explore further: Cerebrospinal fluid signals control the behavior of stem cells in the brain

More information: Multipotency of Adult Hippocampal NSCs In Vivo Is Restricted by Drosha/NFIB

Cell Stem Cell (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.07.003

Related Stories

Monitoring cell fates

July 27, 2016

An international team of researchers led by ETH scientists has been studying the factors influencing the development of different blood cells. Their research shows that certain molecular mechanisms are not as relevant as ...

Recommended for you

Proteins use a lock and key system to bind to DNA

January 16, 2019

You can think of DNA as a string of letters—As, Cs, Ts, and Gs—that together spell out the information needed for the construction and function of cells. Each cell in your body shares the same DNA. So, for cells to take ...

How stem cells self-organize in the developing embryo

January 16, 2019

Embryonic development is a process of profound physical transformation, one that has challenged researchers for centuries. How do genes and molecules control forces and tissue stiffness to orchestrate the emergence of form ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.