Stars from the darkest night: unlocking the neurogenic potential of astrocytes in different brain regions

Development. 2016 Apr 1;143(7):1075-86. doi: 10.1242/dev.133975.


In a few regions of the adult brain, specialized astrocytes act as neural stem cells capable of sustaining life-long neurogenesis. In other, typically non-neurogenic regions, some astrocytes have an intrinsic capacity to produce neurons when provoked by particular conditions but do not use this ability to replace neurons completely after injury or disease. Why do astrocytes display regional differences and why do they not use their neurogenic capacity for brain repair to a greater extent? In this Review, we discuss the neurogenic potential of astrocytes in different brain regions and ask what stimulates this potential in some regions but not in others. We discuss the transcriptional networks and environmental cues that govern cell identity, and consider how the activation of neurogenic properties in astrocytes can be understood as the de-repression of a latent neurogenic transcriptional program.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Neurogenic regions; Parenchymal astrocytes; Quiescent stem cells; Reprogramming; Transcriptional networks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*