Control of neural stem cell fate questioned

Research suggests Drosha-based mechanism may determine fate

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Aug 25, 2016
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Somatic stem cell differentiation has long been believed to depend on the environmental niche, restricting the process to produce cells for the organ in which it occurs. Stem cells receive and interpret environmental factors that guide their differentiation into specific and restricted cell types. Neural stem cells are known to produce three different cell types: neurons; astrocytes; and oligodendrocytes. However, the adult hippocampus, for reasons that have so far remained undiscovered, does not produce oligodendrocytes.

Researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland) have, for the first time, described a mechanism allowing hippocampal neural stem cells to regulate their own fate via the Drosha enzyme. Drosha degrades the mRNA for NFIB transcription factor in adult hippocampal cells, preventing its expression. Differentiation into oligodendrocytes is therefore blocked and differentiation into other cell types encouraged.

Commenting on these findings, last author Verdon Taylor (University of Basel) stated: “Our research results about the function of Drosha challenge the way we used to think about how stem cell fate is controlled”. The group next intend to study if and how stem cells are able to modulate Drosha activity.

Written by Hannah Wilson

Source: University of Basel News www.unibas.ch/en/News-Events/News/Uni-Research/Neural-Stem-Cells-Control-their-own-Fate

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