The spinal cord ependymal region: a stem cell niche in the caudal central nervous system

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:1044-59. doi: 10.2741/3734.


In the brain, specific signalling pathways localized in highly organized regions called niches, allow the persistence of a pool of stem and progenitor cells that generate new neurons and glial cells in adulthood. Much less is known on the spinal cord central canal niche where a sustained adult neurogenesis is not observed. Here we review our current knowledge of this caudal niche in normal and pathological situations. Far from being a simple layer of homogenous cells, this region is composed of several cell types localized at specific locations, expressing characteristic markers and with different morphologies and functions. We further report on a screen of online gene-expression databases to better define this spinal cord niche. Several genes were found to be preferentially expressed within or around the central canal region (Bmp6, CXCR4, Gdf10, Fzd3, Mdk, Nrtn, Rbp1, Shh, Sox4, Wnt7a) some of which by specific cellular subtypes. In depth characterization of the spinal cord niche constitutes a framework to make the most out of this endogenous cell pool in spinal cord disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology*
  • Ependyma / cytology*
  • Ependyma / embryology
  • Ependyma / growth & development
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Regeneration
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Stem Cell Niche / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology