Neural bHLH genes control the neuronal versus glial fate decision in cortical progenitors

Neuron. 2001 Feb;29(2):401-13. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00214-8.


We have addressed the role of the proneural bHLH genes Neurogenin2 (Ngn2) and Mash1 in the selection of neuronal and glial fates by neural stem cells. We show that mice mutant for both genes present severe defects in development of the cerebral cortex, including a reduction of neurogenesis and a premature and excessive generation of astrocytic precursors. An analysis of wild-type and mutant cortical progenitors in culture showed that a large fraction of Ngn2; Mash1 double-mutant progenitors failed to adopt a neuronal fate, instead remaining pluripotent or entering an astrocytic differentiation pathway. Together, these results demonstrate that proneural genes are involved in lineage restriction of cortical progenitors, promoting the acquisition of the neuronal fate and inhibiting the astrocytic fate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cerebral Cortex / abnormalities
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Lac Operon / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Ascl1 protein, mouse
  • Ascl1 protein, rat
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NEUROG2 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurog2 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors