Background: Pannexin 1 forms ion and metabolite permeable hexameric channels and is abundantly expressed in the brain. After discovering pannexin 1 expression in postnatal neural stem and progenitor cells we sought to elucidate its functional role in neuronal development.
Results: We detected pannexin 1 in neural stem and progenitor cells in vitro and in vivo. We manipulated pannexin 1 expression and activity in Neuro2a neuroblastoma cells and primary postnatal neurosphere cultures to demonstrate that pannexin 1 regulates neural stem and progenitor cell proliferation likely through the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Conclusions: Permeable to ATP, a potent autocrine/paracine signaling metabolite, pannexin 1 channels are ideally suited to influence the behavior of neural stem and progenitor cells. Here we demonstrate they play a robust role in the regulation of neural stem and progenitor cell proliferation. Endogenous postnatal neural stem and progenitor cells are crucial for normal brain health, and their numbers decline with age. Furthermore, these special cells are highly responsive to neurological injury and disease, and are gaining attention as putative targets for brain repair. Therefore, understanding the fundamental role of pannexin 1 channels in neural stem and progenitor cells is of critical importance for brain health and disease.