Evaluation of the differentiation status of neural stem cells based on cell morphology and the expression of Notch and Sox2

Cytotherapy. 2018 Dec;20(12):1472-1485. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2018.10.001. Epub 2018 Oct 27.


Neural stem cells (NSCs) isolated from a variety of sources are being developed as cellular therapies aimed at treating neurodegenerative diseases. During NSC culture and expansion it is important the cells do not differentiate prematurely because this may have an unfavorable effect on product quality and yield. In our study, we evaluated the use of Notch and Sox2 as markers for undifferentiated human and mouse NSCs. The expression of Notch2 and Sox2 during extensive-passage, low-oxygen culture and differentiation conditions were analyzed to confirm that the presence of these signature proteins directly correlates with the ability of NSCs to form new neurospheres and differentiate into multiple cell types. Using expression of Notch1, Notch2 and Sox2 as a reference, we then used flow cytometry to identify a specific morphological profile for undifferentiated murine and human NSCs. Our studies show that Notch and Sox2 expression, along with flow cytometry analysis, can be used to monitor the differentiation status of NSCs grown in culture for use in cellular therapies.

Keywords: Notch; Notch1; Notch2; Sox2; cellular therapy; flow cytometry; neural stem cell; neurosphere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Receptor, Notch1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Notch1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Notch2 / genetics
  • Receptor, Notch2 / metabolism*
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • NOTCH1 protein, human
  • NOTCH2 protein, human
  • Receptor, Notch1
  • Receptor, Notch2
  • SOX2 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins