The generation of diverse types of neural cells during development occurs through the progressive restriction of the fate potential of neuroepithelial progenitor cells. This process is controlled by factors intrinsic and extrinsic to the cell. While the effect of extrinsic cues on multipotent stem cells of the murine central nervous system (CNS) is becoming clearer, little is known of neural stem cells of human origin. We sought to establish the roles played by two cytokines, leukemia inhibitory (LIF) and ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), and by nerve growth factor (NGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) in regulating neuronal and astroglial differentiation in cultured embryonic diencephalic human stem cells. While NGF did not influence either neuronal or glial formation, PDGF surprisingly decreased the percentage of stem cell-generated neurons, an effect opposite to that observed in murine progenitors. Furthermore, while we confirmed the known ability of LIF and CNTF to support astroglial differentiation, we also observed that, in contrast with their murine counterparts, the fraction of CNS stem cell-generated neurons in human cultures was enhanced twofold in the presence of both cytokines. These findings highlight important differences between humans and rodents in regard to the way epigenetic cues regulate the function of neural stem cells.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.