Astroglial cells support or restrict the migration and differentiation of neural stem cells depending on the developmental stage of the progenitors and the physiological state of the astrocytes. In the present study, we show that astroglial cells instruct noncommitted, immortalized neuroectodermal stem cells to adopt a neuronal fate, while they fail to induce neuronal differentiation of embryonic stem cells under similar culture conditions. Astrocytes induce neuron formation by neuroectodermal progenitors both through direct cell-to-cell contacts and via short-range acting humoral factors. Neuron formation takes place inside compact stem cell assemblies formed 30-60 h after the onset of glial induction. Statistical analyses of time-lapse microscopic recordings show that direct contacts with astrocytes hinder the migration of neuroectodermal progenitors, while astroglia-derived humoral factors increase their motility. In non-contact co-cultures with astrocytes, altered adhesiveness prevents the separation of frequently colliding neural stem cells. By contrast, in contact co-cultures with astrocytes, the restricted migration on glial surfaces keeps the cell progenies together, resulting in the formation of clonally proliferating stem cell aggregates. The data indicate that in vitro maintained parenchymal astrocytes (1) secrete factors, which initiate neuronal differentiation of neuroectodermal stem cells; and (2) provide a cellular microenvironment where stem cell/stem cell interactions can develop and the sorting out of the future neurons can proceed. In contrast to noncommitted progenitors, postmitotic neuronal precursors leave the stem cell clusters, indicating that astroglial cells selectively support the migration of maturing neurons as well as the elongation of neurites.
- Embryonic stem cell
- Neural stem cell
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience