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Cell Lineage and Regional Identity of Cultured Spinal Cord Neural Stem Cells and Comparison to Brain-Derived Neural Stem Cells


Neural stem cells (NSCs) can be isolated from different regions of the central nervous system. There has been controversy whether regional differences amongst stem and progenitor cells are cell intrinsic and whether these differences are maintained during expansion in culture. The identification of inherent regional differences has important implications for the use of these cells in neural repair. Here, we compared NSCs derived from the spinal cord and embryonic cortex. We found that while cultured cortical and spinal cord derived NSCs respond similarly to mitogens and are equally neuronogenic, they retain and maintain through multiple passages gene expression patterns indicative of the region from which they were isolated (e.g Emx2 and HoxD10). Further microarray analysis identified 229 genes that were differentially expressed between cortical and spinal cord derived neurospheres, including many Hox genes, Nuclear receptors, Irx3, Pace4, Lhx2, Emx2 and Ntrk2. NSCs in the cortex express LeX. However, in the embryonic spinal cord there are two lineally related populations of NSCs: one that expresses LeX and one that does not. The LeX negative population contains few markers of regional identity but is able to generate LeX expressing NSCs that express markers of regional identity. LeX positive cells do not give rise to LeX-negative NSCs. These results demonstrate that while both embryonic cortical and spinal cord NSCs have similar self-renewal properties and multipotency, they retain aspects of regional identity, even when passaged long-term in vitro. Furthermore, there is a population of a LeX negative NSC that is present in neurospheres derived from the embryonic spinal cord but not the cortex.

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