Opposing effects of retinoid signaling on astrogliogenesis in embryonic day 13 and 17 cortical progenitor cells

J Neurochem. 2008 Aug;106(4):1681-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05525.x. Epub 2008 Jun 28.


All-trans retinoic acid (RA) is a differentiation factor in many tissues. However, its role in astrogliogenesis has not been extensively studied. Here, we investigated the effect of RA on the regulation of astrogliogenesis at different cortical developmental stages. We prepared rat cortical progenitor cells from embryonic day (E) 13 and E17, which correspond to the beginning of neurogenic and astrogliogenic periods, respectively. Surprisingly, RA promoted astrogliogenesis at E17 but inhibited astrogliogenesis induced by ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) at E13. The inhibitory effect of RA on astrogliogenesis at E13 was not due to premature commitment of progenitors to a neuronal or oligodendroglial lineage. Rather, RA retained more progenitors in a proliferative state. Furthermore, RA inhibition of astrogliogenesis at E13 was independent of STAT3 signaling and required the function of the alpha and beta isoforms of the RA receptors (RAR). Moreover, the differential response of E13 and E17 progenitors to RA was due to differences in the intrinsic properties of these cells that are preserved in vitro. The inhibitory effect of RA on cytokine-induced astrogliogenesis at E13 may contribute to silencing of any potential precocious astrogliogenesis during the neurogenic period.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retinoids / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*


  • Retinoids
  • Tretinoin