Presenilins are required for maintenance of neural stem cells in the developing brain

Mol Neurodegener. 2008 Jan 8:3:2. doi: 10.1186/1750-1326-3-2.


The early embryonic lethality of mutant mice bearing germ-line deletions of both presenilin genes precluded the study of their functions in neural development. We therefore employed the Cre-loxP technology to generate presenilin conditional double knockout (PS cDKO) mice, in which expression of both presenilins is inactivated in neural progenitor cells (NPC) or neural stem cells and their derivative neurons and glia beginning at embryonic day 11 (E11). In PS cDKO mice, dividing NPCs labeled by BrdU are decreased in number beginning at E13.5. By E15.5, fewer than 20% of NPCs remain in PS cDKO mice. The depletion of NPCs is accompanied by severe morphological defects and hemorrhages in the PS cDKO embryonic brain. Interkinetic nuclear migration of NPCs is also disrupted in PS cDKO embryos, as evidenced by displacement of S-phase and M-phase nuclei in the ventricular zone of the telencephalon. Furthermore, the depletion of neural progenitor cells in PS cDKO embryos is due to NPCs exiting cell cycle and differentiating into neurons rather than reentering cell cycle between E13.5 and E14.5 following PS inactivation in most NPCs. The length of cell cycle, however, is unchanged in PS cDKO embryos. Expression of Notch target genes, Hes1 and Hes5, is significantly decreased in PS cDKO brains, whereas Dll1 expression is up-regulated, indicating that Notch signaling is effectively blocked by PS inactivation. These findings demonstrate that presenilins are essential for neural progenitor cells to re-enter cell cycle and thus ensure proper expansion of neural progenitor pool during embryonic neural development.