Boundary cap cells are peripheral nervous system stem cells that can be redirected into central nervous system lineages

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 28;108(26):10714-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018687108. Epub 2011 Jun 13.


Boundary cap cells (BC), which express the transcription factor Krox20, participate in the formation of the boundary between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. To study BC stemness, we developed a method to purify and amplify BC in vitro from Krox20(Cre/+), R26R(YFP/+) mouse embryos. We show that BC progeny are EGF/FGF2-responsive, form spheres, and express neural crest markers. Upon growth factor withdrawal, BC progeny gave rise to multiple neural crest and CNS lineages. Transplanted into the developing murine forebrain, they successfully survived, migrated, and integrated within the host environment. Surprisingly, BC progeny generated exclusively CNS cells, including neurons, astrocytes, and myelin-forming oligodendrocytes. In vitro experiments indicated that a sequential combination of ventralizing morphogens and glial growth factors was necessary to reprogram BC into oligodendrocytes. Thus, BC progeny are endowed with differentiation plasticity beyond the peripheral nervous system. The demonstration that CNS developmental cues can reprogram neural crest-derived stem cells into CNS derivatives suggests that BC could serve as a source of cell type-specific lineages, including oligodendrocytes, for cell-based therapies to treat CNS disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*