A unified hypothesis on the lineage of neural stem cells

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2001 Apr;2(4):287-93. doi: 10.1038/35067582.


For many years, it was assumed that neurons and glia in the central nervous system were produced from two distinct precursor pools that diverged early during embryonic development. This theory was partially based on the idea that neurogenesis and gliogenesis occurred during different periods of development, and that neurogenesis ceased perinatally. However, there is now abundant evidence that neural stem cells persist in the adult brain and support ongoing neurogenesis in restricted regions of the central nervous system. Surprisingly, these stem cells have the characteristics of fully differentiated glia. Neuroepithelial stem cells in the embryonic neural tube do not show glial characteristics, raising questions about the putative lineage from embryonic to adult stem cells. In the developing brain, radial glia have long been known to produce cortical astrocytes, but recent data indicate that radial glia might also divide asymmetrically to produce cortical neurons. Here we review these new developments and propose that the stem cells in the central nervous system are contained within the neuroepithelial --> radial glia --> astrocyte lineage.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*