The adult rat brain contains progenitor cells that can be induced to proliferate in vitro in response to FGF-2. In the present study we explored whether similar progenitor cells can be cultured from different levels (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral) of adult rat spinal cord and whether they give rise to neurons and glia as well as spinal cord-specific neurons (e.g., motoneurons). Cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral areas of adult rat spinal cord (>3 months old) were microdissected and neural progenitors were isolated and cultured in serum-free medium containing FGF-2 (20 ng/ml) through multiple passages. Although all areas generated rapidly proliferating cells, the cultures were heterogeneous in nature and cell morphology varied within a given area as well as between areas. A percentage of cells from all areas of the spinal cord differentiate into cells displaying antigenic properties of neuronal, astroglial, and oligodendroglial lineages; however, the majority of cells from all regions expressed the immature proliferating progenitor marker vimentin. In established multipassage cultures, a few large, neuron-like cells expressed immunoreactivity for p75NGFr and did not express GFAP. These cells may be motoneurons. These results demonstrate that FGF-2 is mitogenic for progenitor cells from adult rat spinal cord that have the potential to give rise to glia and neurons including motoneurons.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press.