Developmental Emergence of Adult Neural Stem Cells as Revealed by Single-Cell Transcriptional Profiling

Cell Rep. 2017 Dec 26;21(13):3970-3986. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.12.017.


Adult neural stem cells (NSCs) derive from embryonic precursors, but little is known about how or when this occurs. We have addressed this issue using single-cell RNA sequencing at multiple developmental time points to analyze the embryonic murine cortex, one source of adult forebrain NSCs. We computationally identify all major cortical cell types, including the embryonic radial precursors (RPs) that generate adult NSCs. We define the initial emergence of RPs from neuroepithelial stem cells at E11.5. We show that, by E13.5, RPs express a transcriptional identity that is maintained and reinforced throughout their transition to a non-proliferative state between E15.5 and E17.5. These slowly proliferating late embryonic RPs share a core transcriptional phenotype with quiescent adult forebrain NSCs. Together, these findings support a model wherein cortical RPs maintain a core transcriptional identity from embryogenesis through to adulthood and wherein the transition to a quiescent adult NSC occurs during late neurogenesis.

Keywords: Drop-seq; cortex; development; intermediate progenitors; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; radial precursors; single-cell RNA-seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis / genetics
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger

Grant support