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Control of astrocyte progenitor specification, migration and maturation by Nkx6.1 homeodomain transcription factor.

  • Author(s): Zhao, Xiaofeng
  • Chen, Yidan
  • Zhu, Qiang
  • Huang, Hao
  • Teng, Peng
  • Zheng, Kang
  • Hu, Xuemei
  • Xie, Binghua
  • Zhang, Zunyi
  • Sander, Maike
  • Qiu, Mengsheng
  • et al.
Abstract

Although astrocytes are the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system (CNS), little is known about their molecular specification and differentiation. It has previously been reported that transcription factor Nkx6.1 is expressed in neuroepithelial cells that give rise to astrocyte precursors in the ventral spinal cord. In the present study, we systematically investigated the function of Nkx6.1 in astrocyte development using both conventional and conditional Nkx6.1 mutant mice. At early postnatal stages, Nkx6.1 was expressed in a subpopulation of astrocytes in the ventral spinal cord. In the conventional Nkx6.1KO spinal cord, the initial specification of astrocyte progenitors was affected by the mutation, and subsequent migration and differentiation were disrupted in newborn mice. In addition, the development of VA2 subtype astrocytes was also inhibited in the white matter. Further studies with Nkx6.1 conditional mutants revealed significantly delayed differentiation and disorganized arrangement of fibrous astrocytes in the ventral white matter. Together, our studies indicate that Nkx6.1 plays a vital role in astrocyte specification and differentiation in the ventral spinal cord.

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