Ascl1 Regulates Electric Field-Induced Neuronal Differentiation Through PI3K/Akt Pathway

Neuroscience. 2019 Apr 15;404:141-152. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.02.004. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Directing differentiation of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSCs/NPCs) to produce functional neurons is one of the greatest challenges in regenerative medicine. Our previous paper has confirmed that electrical stimulation has a high efficiency of triggering neuronal differentiation by using isolated filum terminale (FT)-derived NPCs. To further clarify the intrinsic molecular mechanisms, protein-protein interaction (PPI) network analysis was applied to pinpoints novel hubs in electric field (EF)-induced neuronal differentiation. In this study, siRNA transfection of Achaete-scute homolog 1 (Ascl1) in NPCs or NPCs was followed by direct current stimulation at 150 mV/mm. Neuronal differentiation rate and protein expression level were analyzed after 7 or 14 days of electrical stimulation. The data showed that the expression level of Ascl1 was enhanced by electrical stimulation and positively correlated to EF strength. Moreover, we identified that the expression of Ascl1 positively regulated neuronal differentiation of NPCs and can be up-regulated by EF-stimulation through the activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/Akt) pathway. Therefore, this study provides new insights into the role of Ascl1 and its relevant PI3K/Akt pathway in regulating of EF-induced neuronal differentiation and pointed out that continuous expression of Ascl1 in NPCs is required for EF-induced neuronal differentiation.

Keywords: Ascl1; PI3K/Akt; electric fields; neural progenitor cells; neuronal differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Ascl1 protein, mouse
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt