We all need balance in our lives to be happy and healthy, and the little embryo versions of ourselves were no different. When our brain and nervous system developed, our neural precursor cells made sure there was a balance between proliferation and differentiation. A recent paper adds to our understanding of how this happens.
The development of our nervous system is a process that relies on a delicate balance of growth and differentiation. Our neural precursor cells are progenitor cells that can either proliferate as more precursors or differentiate into neurons. Notch1 is a signaling receptor that is known to inhibit the differentiation route and promote proliferation of more precursors. A recent paper identified Prox1 as a transcriptional repressor that allows differentiation of neurons by suppressing the expression of the Notch1 gene. Image above shows neural precursor cells grown in culture as neurospheres from chick spinal cords. When growth factors are added to the culture, the precursors maintain the ability for proliferation and self-renewal, as seen as the high number of undifferentiated cells (red) and low number of Prox1-positive cells (green). The nuclei of cells are in blue.
Kaltezioti, V., Kouroupi, G., Oikonomaki, M., Mantouvalou, E., Stergiopoulos, A., Charonis, A., Rohrer, H., Matsas, R., & Politis, P. (2010). Prox1 Regulates the Notch1-Mediated Inhibition of Neurogenesis PLoS Biology, 8 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000565