Regional specification of rodent and human neurospheres

Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 2002 Mar 31;134(1-2):43-55. doi: 10.1016/s0165-3806(01)00291-7.


Neural precursor cells were isolated from various regions of the developing rat and human brain and grown in culture as aggregates termed neurospheres. We asked whether cells within human and rodent neurospheres are identical, or whether they have species specific characteristics or differences based on their region of origin. Under our culture conditions, rodent neurospheres isolated from the cortex (ctxNS) and striatum (strNS) grew faster than those from the mesencephalon (mesNS), but stopped growing after only eight to ten population doublings. In contrast, human neurospheres under identical culture conditions, continued to grow for over 40 population doublings. Following migration and differentiation of both rodent and human cultures, ctxNS and strNS generated high numbers of small neurons whereas mesNS generated small numbers of large neurons with many long fibres. Only very rare neurons from mesNS expressed dopaminergic markers, and thus may require further signals to fully mature. While the rat neurospheres generated high numbers of oligodendrocytes, very few were found to develop from human neurospheres from any region after a few weeks of passaging. FACS analysis revealed a unique population of smaller cells within human strNS and ctxNS, which appeared to be neuronal progenitors. However, large cells within neurospheres were capable of generating these small neuronal progenitors following further proliferation. Together, our data show that rat and human neurospheres have unique characteristics with regard to growth and differentiation, and that the majority of precursor cells within neurospheres are regionally specified to generate set numbers of neurons. These findings have important implications for understanding the nature of proliferating neural precursors isolated from the developing CNS, and their potential for brain repair.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Size
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Humans
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Rats / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology*
  • Spheroids, Cellular / physiology*
  • Time Factors