Neural stem cell survival factors

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2013 Jun;534(1-2):71-87. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2013 Mar 5.


Neural stem and progenitor cells (NSCs and NPs) give rise to the central nervous system (CNS) during embryonic development. NSCs and NPs differentiate into three main cell-types of the CNS; astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and neurons. NSCs are present in the adult CNS and are important in maintenance and repair. Adult NSCs hold great promise for endogenous or self-repair of the CNS. Intriguingly, NSCs have been implicated as the cells that give rise to brain tumors. Thus, the balance between survival, growth and differentiation is a critical aspect of NSC biology, during development, in the adult, and in disease processes. In this review, we survey what is known about survival factors that control both embryonic and adult NSCs. We discuss the neurosphere culture system as this is widely used to measure NSC activity and behavior in vitro and emphasize the importance of clonality. We define here NSC survival factors in their broadest sense to include any factor that influences survival and proliferation of NSCs and NPs. NSC survival factors identified to date include growth factors, morphogens, proteoglycans, cytokines, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Understanding NSC and NP interaction in response to these survival factors will provide insight to CNS development, disease and repair.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / genetics
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / embryology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism
  • Stem Cell Niche
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Epidermal Growth Factor