Neural precursors persist throughout life in the rodent forebrain subventricular zone (SVZ) and hippocampal dentate gyrus. The regulation of persistent neural stem cells is poorly understood, in part because of the lack of neural progenitor markers. The Sox B1 subfamily of HMG-box transcription factors (Sox1-3) is expressed by precursors in the embryonic nervous system, where these factors maintain neural progenitors in an undifferentiated state while suppressing neuronal differentiation. Sox2 expression persists in germinative zones of the adult rodent brain, but Sox3 expression in the postnatal brain remains largely unexplored. Here we examine Sox3 expression in the neonatal and adult mouse brain to gain insight into its potential involvement in regulating persistent neural stem cells and neurogenesis. We also investigate Sox3 expression during expansion and neural differentiation of postnatal mouse SVZ neural stem cell and human embryonic stem cell (hESC) cultures. We find that Sox3 is expressed transiently by proliferating and differentiating neural progenitors in the SVZ-olfactory bulb pathway and dentate gyrus. Sox3 immunoreactivity also persists in specific postmitotic neuronal populations. In vitro, high Sox3 protein expression levels in undifferentiated, SVZ-derived neurospheres decline markedly with differentiation. Sox3 immunoreactivity in hESCs appears upon differentiation to neural progenitors and then decreases as cells differentiate further into neurons. These findings suggest that Sox3 labels specific stages of hESC-derived and murine neonatal and adult neural progenitors and are consistent with a role for Sox3 in neural stem cell maintenance. Persistent Sox3 expression in some mature neuronal populations suggests additional undefined roles for Sox3 in neuronal function.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.