Elements of a neural stem cell niche derived from embryonic stem cells

Chris Pierret, Kathleen Spears, Jason A. Morrison, Joel A. Maruniak, Martin L. Katz, Mark D. Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recent studies show that adult neural tissues can harbor stem cells within unique niches. In the mammalian central nervous system, neural stem cell (NSC) niches have been identified in the dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone (SVZ). Stem cells in the well-characterized SVZ exist in a microenvironment established by surrounding cells and tissue components, including transit-amplifying cells, neuroblasts, ependymal cells, blood vessels, and a basal lamina. Within this microenvironment, stem cell properties, including proliferation and differentiation, are maintained. Current NSC culture techniques often include the addition of molecular components found within the in vivo niche, such as mitogenic growth factors. Some protocols use bio-scaffolds to mimic the physical growth environment of living tissue. We describe a novel NSC culture system, derived from embryonic stem (ES) cells, that displays elements of an NSC niche in the absence of exogenously applied mitogens or complex physical scaffolding. Mouse ES cells were neuralized with retinoic acid and plated on an entactin-collagen-laminin-coated glass surface at high density (250,000 cells/cm2). Six to eight days after plating, complex multicellular structures consisting of heterogeneous cell types developed spontaneously. NSC and progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation continued within these structures. The identity of cellular and molecular components within the cultures was documented using RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, and neurosphere-forming assays. We show that ES cells can be induced to form structures that exhibit key properties of a developing NSC niche. We believe this system can serve as a useful model for studies of neurogenesis and stem cell maintenance in the NSC niche as well as for applications in stem cell transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1026
Number of pages10
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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