Neurons switch from non-neuronal enolase to neuron-specific enolase during differentiation

Brain Res. 1980 May 19;190(1):195-214. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(80)91169-5.


The enolase (EC isoenzymes, neuron-specific enolase (NSE, gamma gamma) and non-neuronal enolase (NNE, alpha alpha), are markers for neurons and glia, respectively, in adult mammalian brain. In developing fetal and early postnatal brain, levels of non-neuronal enolase (NNE) are high. Neuron-specific enolase (NSE) appears only after neurogenesis begins in a given region and only slowly attains adult levels. Immunocytochemistry in developing rat and rhesus monkey brain reveals that proliferative zones that give rise to neurons are NNE(+). Thus, nerve cells must undergo a switch from NNE to NSE. In addition, study of neurons in cerebellum and neocortex reveals that they are NNE(+) during migration and only become NSE(+) in their final location, presumably after making full synaptic connections. Such migrating cells may contain hybrid enolase (alpha gamma) and some (e.g. cerebellar stellate/basket cells) may not completely switch over to NSE even in the adult. Neuron-specific enolase is not only a specific molecular marker for mature nerve cells, but is closely correlated to the differentiated state.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cerebellum / enzymology
  • Haplorhini
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / metabolism*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Rats
  • Spinal Cord / enzymology
  • Visual Cortex / enzymology


  • Isoenzymes
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase